The Maine Woods

A Publication of the Forest Ecology Network

 Volume Five     Number One                           Late Winter 2001

 The 5R Project Began With Words

by Steve Swift

The 5R Project began with words Julia Butterfly Hill wrote to me on envelopes sent from Luna. "Respect, Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," and "It's a Precious Planet," she would scribble on the reverse side of an envelope I'd sent to her. Then she resealed it with tiny pieces of tape, and sent her letter back to me.

The "5R's" are one of Julia's favorite topics. She can speak endlessly about each "R." If we practiced them, change would happen immediately. Julia's message is to begin that momentum. When she suggested to me that it was more important to use recycled paper at my business than it was to generously contribute to green causes, I listened. As the days passed, I realized that we could do more than buy recycled paper. We could tell other businesses about our decision, and if we told them where to buy the right paper at a reasonable price, they might join our efforts.

Julia Butterfly Hill talks about the 5R's and related subjects with George Appell, Steve Swift and Paul Donahue during her October 2000 visit to Maine. Photo by Teresa Wood.

The 5R Project took form over the weeks following Julia's visit to Maine. We realized that businesses would appreciate some type of incentive or recognition to offset the extra cost of recycled paper, usually about 20% higher than virgin white copier and computer paper. We learned that "recycled" simply means paper made from mill trimmings, and that post-consumer waste content and bleaching were the important factors to consider. Few businesses would switch to paper containing 100% post-consumer waste content, so we decided to set the standard at 30% PCW content, which is readily available. Businesses that wanted to increase their PCW content would be encouraged and provided with sources. The minimum standard of 30% PCW content would be required for use in all computer printers and copiers, the biggest paper wasters in any office. We knew that would be a major change, but we wanted one more.

Even though most households recycle, most businesses do not. Why? Usually, pick up service is not available except to large companies. To recycle, most small businesses must haul their own recyclables to transfer centers, which takes time and money. Therefore, the last 5R commitment to recycle paper, glass, plastic, and tin represents significant change. Some would argue that the pledge isn't enough. We believe those who want to do more will do it. We want to change the status quo, which is 100% virgin bleached paper in computers and copiers, and no recycling. We will target all types of business - from the easy sign-ups (natural food stores) to the tough ones (hospitals). Our targets are the paper intensive doctors' and lawyers' offices, real estate get the picture.

The goal is to reduce the pressure on the forest while increasing the demand for paper containing post-consumer waste. The 5R Project will compile lists of resources and paper choices, including tree-free options. Our mission is to clearly affect the mainstream small business, not preach to the converted.

Volunteers are wanted! We will give you the materials necessary to sign up businesses. We will teach you presentation skills that you can adapt to your own style. A complete win-win presentation has been developed. For $25 per year, a business will receive the pledge to hang on their wall, a decal for their door, local newspaper publicity, and a website link to their business. They could creatively promote their support of the 5R Project in many ways. The more people they tell about their commitment, the better for their public image. Polls show that people would rather do business with earth friendly companies.

Does our campaign speak to your interests and talent? We need your commitment, small or large. This may be your opportunity to help make some good changes for the trees.

Please call Steve Swift at (207) 872-2078 or email him at

For copier and computer paper try: Recycled Office Products, tel. 207-262-5585, attention Joyce Kravetz, and for tree-free letterhead, copier paper, and heavy stock for brochures, etc. we recommend: Three Mountain Paper, tel. 207-367-5149, attention Drew or Elska.

The 5R Project website - - should be up and running by late April or early May 2001.


This organization has pledged to practice the 5R's and agreed to implement the standards listed below. Our actions, however small, are cumulative and will reduce the use of trees for paper while increasing the demand for forest friendly solutions.

1.  Copiers will use recycled paper containing a minimum of 30% post consumer waste.

2.  Computer printers will use recycled paper containing a minimum of 30% post consumer      waste.

3.  A full recycling program will recycle all office paper, plastic, magazines, and cans, when      local facilities exist.

The 5R Project is sponsored by the Forest Ecology Network, with major funding from Swift Arrow, a wholesale silver jewelry company with offices in Waterville.

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