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ISSUE 115 VOL 21 PUBLISHED 5/10/2002

Activists seek to save forests

By David Fine
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 10, 2002

Loring E. Harkness IV ‘03 was sparked to act after witnessing large-scale forest destruction first-hand while studying abroad. Harkness is now a leader of St. Olaf’s Tree-Free organization, which is part of a national initiative calling for full integration of 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper products on campus.

Harkness’ Tree-Free group has submitted a proposal to the Senate calling for full integration of recycled paper products by 2003. This proposal is a revised version of one submitted last semester, which was rejected in part due to implausibility.

The revised proposal provides clearer strategies for the implementation of the Tree-Free plan, as well as a variety of methods to reduce paper consumption, such as increased double-sided printing and online education concerning paper usage.

While the Senate is currently split on the issue, some critics of the plan note that it is financially implausible and simply unnecessary. Seth Heringer ’05, sympathizes with Tree-Free’s cause, but said, "The plan just isn’t practical, especially in light of budget cutbacks." The Ellingson Senator also noted that Domtar, St. Olaf’s current paper source, is a company dedicated to protecting the environment.

Domtar’s corporate webpage reveals that they are certified by several environmental organizations and demonstrate an active concern for the state of the environment. In a recent letter to St. Olaf, Domtar said that none of their paper contains pulp from endangered old growth forests.

"We are currently in contact with people from the company and investigating the validity of their claims," Harkness said.

Due to Tree Free’s efforts, the campus recently made the switch to 30 percent post-consumer recycled paper. Harkness applauded the administration for their commitment to the environment, and is also grateful for the open ears of Senate and ITT.

Though campus opinions are mixed on Tree-Free’s newest proposal, an active student interest shows that Harkness isn’t alone in his concern for the environment. He encourages the St. Olaf community to be informed and conscientious of their paper usage. Roberta Lembke from the ITT also said that many plans to reduce paper waste would be implemented next year, such as penalties for excessive printing.

Harkness advises students to keep the college’s mission in mind when it comes to issues with the environment. "The St. Olaf mission statement promotes knowledgeable and responsible citizens," Harkness said. "It is our responsibility to take care of the world. Many don’t realize how severe the [environmental] situation really is."

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