College considers eco-friendly paper

One of the topics of discussion at a recent conference at Middlebury on environmentally responsible campus purchasing was increased interest in buying recycled paper. Two members of the Williams delegation, Becky Sanborn ’01 and Center for Environmental Studies Program Assistant Josh Solomon, are pushing for a way to replace an annual 23.6 million sheets of copier and printer paper with a more efficient variety.

They have focused on a paper that costs $2.85 per ream (1,000 sheets), up from the current rate of $2.00.

At this price, environmental responsibility would come at an extra cost to the college of $20,060. This is less than a tenth of a cent for each sheet, but price multiplies quickly when dealing with the large quantities paper the College uses.

Solomon said one way to defray the increased cost would be to find ways to use less paper. He pointed out the success of the draft printer in CES, which prints on the blank side of already-used sheets of paper. Meanwhile, both he and Sanborn are searching for a way to lower the distributor’s price.

Even so, Solomon himself thinks the high price should not stand in the way of environmental responsibility.

“Williams has a certain amount of responsibility to act as a good community member. We’re just such a huge consumer that it behooves us to take some leadership. If we can do it without breaking our back, we should. The primary mission is always to educate, not to be a leader. But if you can do both, you should.”

At the forefront of environmentally conscious paper manufacturing is Montreal-based Rolland Incorporated, maker of New Life DP 100. The paper is made from 20% new fibers – known as virgin stock – and 80% recycled fibers. 60% of this recycled fiber is post-consumer waste, twice the federal requirement for recycled paper. New Life is also Processed-Chlorine Free, meaning neither the virgin stock nor the processing of the final product uses chlorine of any kind. Environmental agencies have linked chlorine processes to fishkills around paper mills and cancer threats.

“It’s the most preferable paper out there if you’re an environmentalist,” said Rolland General Sales Manager Sandy Morgan. “And the companies that use it have a strong environmental stance.”

Sanborn and Solomon have been meeting with Williams Purchasing Coordinator for Central Office Services Ron Favreau, who has set guidelines for them on what the College needs out of its paper supplier.

“There are an awful lot of problems,” said Favreau. Aside from cost, the traditional problem with using recycled paper in printers and copiers is that the shorter fibers allow the paper to curl up in the rollers. However, Morgan said, that New Life’s 20% virgin fibers specifically prevent this problem, and listed no complaints from customers.

Farveau also listed the difficulty and necessity of finding a supplier that will deliver directly to Office Services. “I pointed out the problems [to Sanborn and Solomon], and they’re looking into them,” he noted. Favreau expressed that, in his opinion, New Life is “extremely expensive.”

His skepticism about New Life is more than just a knee-jerk reaction. “We do use a lot of recycled paper – on our colors, the college seal bond, all envelopes. It’s not like we’re not into recycling. I am not balking at attempting any of this stuff without knowing what I’m talking about.”

Favreau does know paper. Before he worked for Office Services, he spent 21 years with a paper-manufacturing company in Adams. He even agrees with Solomon on the subject of environmental leadership. He is closely examining a test case of paper from Indonesia, with fiber made from hardwood trees that reportedly regenerate in four years, as opposed to the average 22.

Favreau added, “Office Services has always been looking for ways of being conscience of conservation. We’re open to suggestions as long as it runs as long as the price is nearly the same. We’ll continue to be.”

Though Office Services is running tests and Sanborn and Solomon are looking for lower prices, change may not come immediately. The process is still in the preliminary stages, and even Solomon says that this is a low priority from a timetable point of view.

While Solomon would appreciate any input from students, neither he nor Sanborn will be organizing protests over this issue any time soon.

“I don’t think this issue is especially conducive to any large-scale student activism, at least not at this stage,” said Sanborn.