Category Archives: Environmental Impact

Just one word. Plastics.


In 2005 when I sailed to Hawaii from Los Angeles, there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t see some large piece of floating trash out there.

It’s estimated that there are 200 million tons of trash floating around in the ocean right now.ocean trash

8 million tons of plastic are added each year. That’s the same as one garbage truck dumping its contents on the beach, every minute of every day!

dump at beachThe US only recycles 8% of the plastic we use. Of the remaining plastic we don’t use 75% goes into landfills and 25% of it ends up in the ocean.

After several years’ plastic breaks down into “microbeads” which are ingested by fish and eventually us.

plastic in fish

If you’ve been following the Olympics in Rio you may have heard the story about the trash and pollution in Guanabara Bay where the Sailing competition is taking place.  Conditions are so bad there that German sailor Eddie Byers was hospitalized from an infection he contracted while practicing on the Olympic venue. This problem isn’t new to Olympic sailors, they experienced similar polluted conditions when they competed in the 2008 Beijing and the 1988 Seoul Games.

But these polluted water conditions are not limited to nations not known for their environmental policies.  Just last month the beaches in Long Beach were closed for a week due to a sewage spill into the Los Angeles River originating from a few blocks east of us on 6th street.

But sewers can be fixed and the water runoff can go through treatment facilities before heading to the oceans.  We can see the results from our shorelines but what most of us don’t see is the large collection of plastic trash currently circulating in the world’s oceans.

NP gyre

There are 5 areas in the world where, due to the ocean currents, trash collects in large clusters, these areas are known as GYRE’s.  The largest is the North Pacific gyre 500 miles North East of Hawaii, otherwise known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  This area is not on the major shipping lanes and few sailors travel in this area, and it’s a good thing because the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is as large as the State of Texas, and growing.

alguitaIn Long Beach, Captain Charles Moore, has been taking researchers out to the North Pacific Gyre since 1999 on his 50-foot research vessel Algalita.   Upon returning from their last trip in 2014 he reported that conditions have worsened by 20% from the way they were in 2009.  Plastic takes 400 years to dissolve naturally in the environment. If the trend of plastic in the ocean continues, he estimates, that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!


But what can be done to stop this man-made disaster?  How did we get to this point?



50 years ago a young actor named Dustin Hoffman was told by Mr. Robinson in The Graduate that the future is in plastic.  Little did he know that the future for the next 400 years will be in getting rid of that plastic.



There are only 4 things we can do with the plastic we use:

  1. Use less.  Use paper cups, use glass or Nalgene bottles, use paper grocery bags or bring your own.recycle
  2. Recycle.  90% of all plastic is not recycled. When you put your used plastic into a recycling container, that plastic gets hauled off and made into new plastic products.
  3. Toss it. You can toss your used plastic into the regular garbage can where it will be hauled to a landfill.  The problem with this is that that plastic will be broken down into micro particulates and leach into the water table, still staying around for 400 years.
  4. Litter. Some people carelessly toss their trash directly into the environment, into our oceans or onto our streets and hiking trails.  One bad habit, according to my wife, that I’ve gotten into is picking up other peoples’ trash when I come across it (as long as it isn’t too grouse).

In closing, remember.  The next time you look out into the ocean, it may look huge and beautiful but without our involvement it won’t stay that way for our kids and grand kids to enjoy like we have.

sand of beach caribbean sea

sand of beach caribbean sea


Earthquake in Chile cause Paper Prices to Rise

Who would have guessed that the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that stuck Chile on February 27th would have caused paper prices to go up as much as 4% less than a month later?  Yet on March 10th Xpedx announced price increases from Georgia Pacific, International Paper, Wausau, Mohawk, Strathmore, FiberMark, and Appleton.

According to a March 11, 2010  Bloomberg news story; Chile’s earthquake, along with a port strike in Finland, caused the price of pulp to rise to it’s biggest seven-day increase in almost six years.  Chile and Finland together account for 12 percent of the world’s pulp sales and production in those two countries have come to a halt.

In Finland, Europe’s two largest papermakers have closed mills and cut production as a strike by port workers that started March 4th has cut off 90 percent of the Nordic nation’s exports. The Helsinki-based companies have said it’s only a matter of days before they halt production fully as they run out of space to store inventory.

“The pulp market has never seen a disruption this sudden and this large,” said Kurt Schaefer, who analyzes the fiber industry at Bedford, Massachusetts-based paper researcher RISI. “The market is so tight at this point that every disruption is magnified 10-fold.”

Pulp is the main raw-material for paper, and a shortage in supply will have knock-on effects in that market too, said Timo Jaakkola, a Helsinki-based analyst with Oehman.  Higher pulp prices will translate to higher paper prices when the paper market balance is tight enough,” Jaakkola said. “The pulp shortage will likely send pulp prices quite a bit higher for the next few months.”

Last month’s 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile, the country’s strongest in 50 years, killed hundreds, destroyed thousands of homes and hammered pulp and timber producers in the country’s central southern region, close to the epicenter.

Only one of 35 pulp plants and sawmills owned by Celulosa Arauco is currently operating, spokesman Andres Moran said. Part of the Mutrun sawmill was swept out to sea and pools of water remain in log stores, he said. A third tidal wave also flooded an area where it stores timber in southern Chile.

“We are still in a first stage of clearing away the debris,” Moran said. “Following that we will begin an evaluation process of determining in what condition the machinery is.” The company said it probably won’t produce in March.   CMPC, owned by Chile’s billionaire Matte family, said March 2nd it halted production at its plants because of a lack of power and water supply. The company owns three pulp plants in Chile and Argentina, where it makes paper products.

“It’s a perfect storm,” Cesar Perez, a managing director at brokerage Celfin Capital SA in Santiago, said in a telephone interview. “There’s not much availability of fiber in other parts of the northern hemisphere, so that’s going to push prices even higher in the following months,” he said.

One Chinese paper producer introduced Asia’s biggest price increase ever this week, raising prices by $150 to $1,050 a ton, said Sandy Lu, a Shanghai-based paper economist at RISI. It’s unclear whether the price hike will stick, she said.  Lu didn’t identify the Chinese producer.

Chile’s outages “are tightening the situation and supporting a rising price trend,” Ilkka Haemaelae, chief executive officer of Metsae-Botnia Oy, a Finnish pulp producer, said in a telephone interview. “Raw materials have no other drivers than the balance of supply and demand.”

Chad Thomas in Helsinki and Matt Craze in Santiago wrote most of the content in this story for Bloomberg News.  Thanks to Nan Faessler of Xpedx for bringing this to my attention.

Toner offsetting on mailed letters

I noticed that when I print a letter using my desktop laser printer the letter looks great when I put it in the envelope and mail it.  However, when the envelope arrives at the address I mailed it to, quite often the letter has toner offset on the portion of the letter where the type rubbed off on the paper.  I’ve noticed this on many of the letters that I’ve received in the mail as well.

In doing some research, I’ve learned that the U.S. Post Office uses high speed mail sorting equipment and this equipment puts sufficient pressure on the envelopes to make the toner offset. The USPS ran a lot of engineering tests years ago and concluded that though there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the effect, it cannot be entirely eliminated. This happens with letters produced on the desktop as well as those produced by high-speed laser printers.  So, a letter produced with toner, is prone to offset.

There are few solutions to this problem that are viable – fold the letter “outside” so that any toner transfer will be to the inside of the envelope; mail the letter without folding it in a booklet envelope, or add a slip sheet where appropriate to receive toner transfer.

The slip-sheet is a hassle and can look odd when received, the 9 x 12 envelope is more expensive to mail, and if you fold a letter “outside” then the content of the letter can be read through the envelope.  The mailing industry has moved past this issue (it has been around for 8-10 years), not having come up with an easy solution to the problem.  So I recommend folding a letter “outside” when privacy is not an issue or spend the extra change to mail the letter using a booklet envelope in a 9 x 12 folder and include some other useful material at the same time.

Any way you choose to go, the cost will be more expensive than sending an email with a pdf attachment however the impact of your personal letter should far outweigh the added expense and effort required.

Paper: The ultimate sustainable resource

There is a lot being said these days about the negative effects that paper and direct mail have on our environment.  But let’s take a closer look at the facts rather than the rhetoric:  There aren’t many industries that are genuinely sustainable.  However, the paper industry is inherently sustainable.  The paper and forest industry replenishes more than it takes and ensures the sustainability of our forests by planting 1.7 million trees every single day – that is more than 3 times what is harvested.

Paper is biodegradable, recyclable, and reusable.  Nearly 60% of all paper in the U.S. is recycled and more than 63% of the fiber used to make new paper comes from recycled sources.  Compare those numbers to the recycling of electronics:  Only 18% of all electronic devices are currently recycled.  More than 2 million tons of electronic devices were disposed of in U.S. landfills in 2008.  Computers and other electronics don’t grow on trees.

Toner Offset on personal correspondence letters

Have you ever opened a letter sent to you in the mail and noticed that the toner used to print the body of the letter had offset onto the letterhead paper?   I couldn’t understand why, when I printed the letter out at my desktop laser printer, the letter looked clean and beautiful yet when it arrived on the desk of the person I was mailing it to the toner used to write the letter had offset onto the letterhead paper.

I did an informal study by mailing letters to my home printed on a variety of papers using both my desktop Brother MFC-7220 laser printer and my HP Officejet 5610 inkjet printer.  When I opened my mail  all of the letters had offset on the paper, although some less than others.  Since all of the letters looked clean and beautiful when they left my office in the mail the culprit  in this mystery seemed to be the US Postal Service.

Upon further investigation I discovered that when letters enter the U S Post Office mail stream envelopes go through a labyrinth of sorting machines.  These machines have rollers that move and hold the envelopes along their path to their intended destinations.  The combination of the heat and pressure these rollers apply to the envelopes cause the toner printed on the letter inside the envelope to re-apply itself to whatever paper is next to it.

Here we are in the business of printing letterheads for businesses to use to correspond with and yet those letters look less-than-professional when they are read by the person the letter is sent to.  What can be done about this?

There are a few solutions that came to mind about what to do to remedy this situation, among them;

  • fold the letter inside out when stuffing it into a #10 envelope.  This way the toner offsets on the inside of the envelope instead of on the letter itself.  One problem with this solution is that the letter can be read through the envelope.
  • place a tissue or lightweight translucent sheet of paper over the letter prior to folding it.  This way the toner is offset onto the tissue instead of onto  the letter.  Some of us may remember engraved wedding invitations with a tissue in them.  Engravers learned long ago that since engraving ink sits up on the paper it will rub off onto the paper next to it when rubbed under the pressure of postal equipment.  A tissue was used between the engraved ink and the paper.
  • Send all letters in a 9×12 envelope instead of a #10 envelope.  One problem with this is that the postage is more expensive and the letter still offsets onto the inside of the envelope and you can read through most  9×12’s just as you can with the #10
  • Hand deliver your letter, very expensive but very impressive…

This morning I contacted Julie Schafer of the Printing Industry Digital Imaging Council this morning to discuss this subject.  Julie was aware of this issue and was going to see if there has been any research done in this area.  Julie was going to bring Frank Romano and Daryl Mooney also with PIA into the discussion.  Without a practical solution to this problem I fear that customers will increasingly turn to the email to send correspondence as pdf attachments to be printed out at the receivers desktop instead of mailing letters.  Not only would this trend be bad for those us who print letterheads but it would take another step away from the personal correspondence we are increasing moving away from in our digital world.

More information will follow on this important subject in the coming days.

Facts about paper and the environment

With the focus of environmental groups on Do Not Mail campaigns, it is a good opportunity to arm ourselves with some facts about paper and the environment. For example, according to the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI);

  • The cutting down of trees for papermaking does not lead to deforestation. Deforestation is the permanent clearing of trees for purposes such as creating farmland and pastureland, for commercial and residential development, or for any other use for which trees are cut and not allowed to grow back. Unfortunately, deforestation is occurring in many parts of the world, especially in the tropics. This deforestation is mainly due to population pressure. In most of these cases, forests are cut down and burned for domestic fuel (heating homes and cooking) or to clear land for farming.
  • Only about 17% of the 3.3 billion cubic meters of wood consumed worldwide each year is for papermaking, and much of this wood is in the form of wood chips and other residue left behind from sawmill operations. Over half of the wood harvested in the world is used for fuel, mostly for cooking and domestic heating.
  • Most of the raw material used in paper manufacturing in the U.S. does not come from whole trees. Over half comes from recovered paper and the wood waste (such as wood chips and sawdust) left behind from lumber manufacturing.

You can find more facts about paper and the environment at the TAPPI website at (

Sustainable Printing Tips

Developing sustainable printing habits is not just a phase or a craze, but is an essential part of being a responsible citizen of the world. HP seeks to help those who would like to make a commitment towards becoming a more responsible printer user by posting a few tips and tricks on their website.

Before you can even start making changes, HP advises that you need to know where you are at this point as far as your current printing habits go. To help users create a benchmark, the HP Carbon Footprint Calculator for printing is available online for free. It evaluates a user’s current printing system and makes suggestions on how one can lower energy costs and consumption as well as paper usage. Among the changes that you might need to make are ensuring that you turn the power of your unit off and installing a universal printer driver.

For those who are looking to buy a new printer or replace an old one, then it is beneficial that you purchase ‘green’ products, nipping an opportunity to leave a huge carbon footprint in the bud, so to speak. At HP, making a thoughtful and environment-friendly purchase is easy. For one, you can simply look for the Eco Highlights label. The label contains information on how the HP product you are thinking of purchasing was made and transported, as well as how much energy it consumes. Another stamp you will want to look for is the ENERGY STAR Qualified mark.

Going beyond the printer, another way towards making an environment-friendly purchase is to check whether it comes in recyclable packaging. You can also look for information or evidence regarding environment-friendly manufacturing, processing and transportation practices.

Partially re-bloged from