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Lecture examines paper’s future

The Sustainability Speaker Series, a program sponsored by the Drexel Green initiative, sponsored a lecture titled “The Evolution of Paper in the 21st Century” Feb. 12 at Drexel’s James E. Marks Intercultural Center.

Drexel Printing & Mailing Services invited Joe Terry of Neenah Paper to tackle the question “Is paper sustainable?” Neenah Paper is one of the country’s oldest and largest paper manufacturers. Terry was the first lecturer of this year’s Green Council Speaker Series.

Terry provided a brief overview of the papermaking process. He explained that water is reused in the process and that the vast majority of paper that is manufactured in North America and Europe is made using sustainable forestry, water and labor practices. Terry said that using paper wisely and making sustainable paper choices can mitigate our footprint.

He then urged the audience to “never ask for the cheapest paper because where you get your paper from matters,” implying that the cheapest paper is produced using unsound practices. Terry also mentioned numerous times that the water used in the papermaking process is cleaner after they are done with it than it is when they receive it.

The latter half of Terry’s lecture focused on the intersection of paper’s future and sustainable practices. The crux of the lecture lay in Terry’s belief that we are the caretakers of our land, and he was humorously quick to mention that he was indeed not a scientist although he has worked in the paper industry for over two decades. Furthermore, Terry believes that being “green” is not just an idea, slogan or media creation; rather, it is a lifestyle for those who are committed to making the world a better place.

There is no regulation for the universal recycling symbol, the three mutually chasing arrows. Generally, the world-famous arrows mean that at least 30 percent of the paper was made from recycled goods. One ton of recycled paper saves 3.3 cubic yards of space in landfills.

“There is a place for paper when it is used properly,” Terry said to the crowd. Several audience members simultaneously let out a sigh and remarked that they felt validated to be printing when doing heavy reading.

After explaining several environmental certifications and their respective meanings, Terry pointed out that some certifications were given by third-party groups and were difficult to attain while others did not hold such weight. He pointed out which certifications were most meaningful and which companies are most responsible and safely manufacture products that support sustainability. Some certifications that Terry explained included the Forestry Sustainability Council, The Green Seal Certification, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Green-e and Processed Chlorine Free. Terry then touched on the future of print and attempted to map out where it is going. He pointed out that currently, a large amount of paper is used for what many would consider “junk mail.”

The future of paper, the way it is commonly thought of, may be shrinking, but Neenah Paper also manufactures other technical products such as blue painter’s tape, paper that is specially designed for oil filters in cars and airplanes, and specialty paper made from premium cotton blends. Terry explained that the trees, water and energy that are required to manufacture a newspaper impact a person’s carbon footprint less than reading the same newspaper online.

“The presentation was factual, objective and captivating, and the underlying message was simple: Protect the earth’s resources, make an informed choice,” Anoo Sukhia, executive director of Drexel’s Printing & Mailing Services, said.

According to its website, Drexel Green offers programs to the entire Drexel community as a way to promote sustainable practices on campus, at home and in the community. Created in 2008 by students, faculty and staff, Drexel Green is dedicated to transforming Drexel’s campus into a sustainability leader. The initiative covers all aspects of operations, buildings, academic initiatives, and student life and is responsible for the strategic planning toward further sustainable practices and policies.

For more information about the Sustainability Speaker Series or Drexel Green, please visit www.drexel.edu/green/programs. Additionally, the next Sustainability Council Meeting will take place Feb. 22 at noon in the Liberty View Room on the top floor of MacAlister Hall.