We Won the LWV of Texas 2010 Environmental Business Award!

Tom Kemper is the President and Founder of Dolphin Blue

It was indeed a pleasure to have been awarded the League of Women Voters of Texas 2010 Environmental Awareness Corporate Business Award.

From the introduction by Mary Vogelson, long-time LOWV member and past-President, who interspersed pseudo-Madonna lyrics “not like a virgin”, into her introductory words, referring to Dolphin Blue providing ONLY office supplies made of post consumer recycled materials (not virgin), to getting to see and hear from the other categories’ recipients, I was honored to receive such a coveted award from  such a distinguished group of politically-active women.

I was particularly impressed by my fellow recipients of The League’s Annual Environmental Awards, notably, one long-time activist from Houston, Terry Hershey, who has been advocating for the environment at least 50 years. Ms. Hershey has wrestled with the Army Corps of Engineers, enlisting support from the likes of George H.W. Bush (daddy Bush) when he was a congressman, and Houston oilman George Mitchell (Mitchell Energy). After hearing Terry speak upon receiving her award, I’d be hesitant to take her on, even at her tender age, which appeared to be well into her 80’s. her credentials in environmental volunteerism and activism are impressive.

Congratulations to my fellow recipients, in the following categories:

  • The Catherine Perrine Award — Dr. Melanie Barnes, LWV Lubbock
  • Individual Award — Terese “Terry” Hershey, Houston
  • Corporate/Business Award — Dolphin Blue, Dallas
  • Media Award — EnviroMedia, Austin
  • Nonprofit Award — Texas Master Naturalist Program
  • Public Policy Awards (Individual) — Karen Hadden, Austin
  • Public Policy Awards (Organization) — Downwinders at Risk Education Fund, Midlothian

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation in government

and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

2010 ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS AWARDEES

Catherine Perrine Award: Dr. Melanie Barnes is a Senior Research Associate and member of the Graduate Faculty in the Department of Geology at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.  Dr. Barnes has been involved in environmental issues on a national, state, and local level for 25 years.  Through her positions as Natural Resources Director and Hazardous Waste Chair of the LWV-TX, she lobbied legislative bodies as a public citizen and a scientist.  Melanie brought the issue of a proposed high level nuclear waste site in Deaf Smith County before the citizens of West Texas by arranging a panel discussion with the U.S. Department of Energy, giving presentations at civic organization meetings, and taking field trips to the site.  Melanie was also a leader in addressing the issues associated with a low level radioactive waste site in Andrews County, Texas.  And, she was LWV-TX’s point person on nuclear energy.  Melanie’s scientific credentials give more weight to her educational and lobbying efforts, thus making her a more effective League spokesperson.

Individual: Terese “Terry” Hershey of the Houston area has devoted the past 50 years to community service, particularly centered on environmental issues. Much of her focus has been on the greater Houston area, and she was a founding board member of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and former member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.  On a national level she was a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Environmental Quality, National Recreation and Park Association (1979-1980 Vice-President), board member of the National Audubon Society (1977-86), and board member of the Trust for Public Land (1979-1992).

Business: Dolphin Blue is a Dallas-based, online retailer of ONLY environmentally responsible office supplies and printed paper products. Thomas Kemper started this business because he realized that recycling would not be successful unless a market was created for the recycled material. All papers provided by Dolphin Blue are post-consumer recycled, and most papers offered are 100% post-consumer recycled, being made of only waste paper fibers using NO tree fiber. Most papers offered are FSC-certified, processed chlorine free and made carbon neutral with Green-E certified renewable wind energy.

Media: EnviroMedia is a social marketing firm headquartered in San Marcos, committed to delivering authentic, ethical campaigns for clients who want to tell true environmental stories, including the Don’t Mess with Texas litter prevention campaign which achieved a 33 percent reduction in litter from 2001 to 2005.  They also directed advertising campaigns for Green Mountain Energy Company, leading to a 70 percent sales jump in 2006, and the Water IQ campaign for the North Texas Municipal Water District, which helped curb projected peak-day water consumption by an estimated 200 million gallons of water per day in 2006.  They oversaw the Dell Inc. electronics recycling strategy and in 2004, which transformed Dell from being publicly called a “laggard” to being named a “leader.” Related recycling events set records, keeping nearly 1,000 tons of unwanted computers out of landfills.

Nonprofit Education: Texas Master Naturalist Program is a network of 37 chapters with 5,300 volunteer members who work to improve public understanding of natural resource ecology and management. Originally started in 1997, it was adopted as a state program by Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.  In the 10 years between 1998 and 2008, Texas Master Naturalists have volunteered over 1 million hours to natural resource and environmental projects in the state. They have impacted 90,000 acres and developed/maintained 996.5 miles of interpretive trails.  Michelle Haggerty, Naturalist Program Coordinator, Texas Parks and Wildlife, is accepting the award.

Public Policy Individual: Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, has worked tirelessly to educate the media, citizens, and local and state officials about the need for coal plant cleanup and the health impacts of toxic mercury. She built a coalition among mothers, doctors, and fishermen regarding mercury emissions. She led the grassroots advocacy effort throughout Texas against 19 proposed coal-fired electric generation plants in Texas. As a result, SEED got party status in many of the cases and got reductions in mercury emissions from coal burning power plants.  Karen envisioned and created the Solar Austin Campaign that led to Austin developing the most ambitious solar goal of any municipal utility in the country.  This program served as a model for programs in the DFW area and San Antonio.

Public Policy Non-Profit: Downwinders At-Risk Education Fund is a diverse grassroots citizen organization dedicated to reducing toxic industrial air pollution in North Texas.  Although their main focus remains on reducing the toxic emissions of the cement kilns in the Midlothian industrial complex near Dallas-Ft. Worth, they have also served over the past 12 years as a resource for citizens’ groups nationally and internationally, including Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Mexico, Montana, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, New York, and Michigan. Their 2007 Campaign for Green Cement persuaded the cities and schools in the Dallas Ft. Worth area to buy cement from newer cleaner kilns. This regional boycott was a factor in TXI shutting down its four wet kilns and Ash Grove pledging to reduce pollution from its wet kilns by 300 tons a year.

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Greenstar and the State of Recycling

Tom Kemper is the president and founder of Dolphin Blue.

On April 6, 2010, almost seventeen years to the day, from the date Dolphin Blue began doing business, I had a personal tour of Greenstar North America’s Dallas MRF (materials recovery facility).

Wow, has the state of recycling changed!

Dolphin Blue was founded after I conducted the first-ever public recycling program in Dallas, in 1992.  I was busily collecting, sorting, bagging and preparing for processing, 350, 50-gallon bags of recyclable commodities for three-and-one-half weeks of the Dallas Summer Shakespeare Festival.  Unbeknownst to me WFAA TV’s environmental reporter was reporting on the evening news that the recycling collection trucks were picking up Dallas’ igloos of recyclable materials from public locations and delivering the materials right to the landfill.  That became for me an awakening that inspired me to begin a business that would provide only office supplies made from post-consumer recycled materials.  To this day Dolphin Blue is the only retailer that provides ONLY office supplies made from post-consumer recycled materials.

What I learned in that first-ever Dallas recycling effort, is that we can place all our discard materials into our blue bins to our heart’s content.  Unless we make purchases of products made from those items we place in the collection bins, all that effort to preserve or sustain our planet for our children is for naught.

Recycling, AND, purchasing products made from post-consumer recycled materials, produces many environmental and societal benefits such as:

  • Conserving the energy and raw materials used to manufacture a product.
  • Retaining healthy forests and ecologically-viable and species-diverse habitats.
  • Landfill-destined waste is eliminated, thereby reducing the need to utilize additional land for dumping our waste.
  • Preventing chlorine compounds and other carcinogens from entering vital water ecosystems reduces the risk of adverse human health effects and chemical influence on fellow species.
  • Almost half of the 83 million tons of paper generated annually still ends up in landfills.
  • When we recycle paper, CO2 emissions are significantly reduced.

As well as papers certified for 100% post-consumer recycled material, Dolphin Blue provides papers that are:

  • Made with Green-E certified renewable wind energy and made carbon neutral.
  • Processed chlorine free (whitened without chlorine or chlorine-containing compounds).
  • Manufactured using only 100% post-consumer recycled waste fibers using no virgin wood pulp.

I honestly expected to see something totally different than what I saw and heard from Trisha Davis, municipal marketing and account manager at Greenstar’s Dallas facility.  I expected to see a processing plant burdened with intake of recyclable commodities of which there is little or no opportunity for re-integration into the market.  I am pleased by what I’ve seen and heard of Greenstar’s success in recycling markets. Great job, Greenstar!

I am convinced that the vast majority of the 300 tons of material taken to Greenstar each year is reintroduced to the market.

So, that brings up a HUGE question…

If all this stuff is successfully being re-integrated into our economy, then why aren’t we seeing products that are more clearly marked, indicating the percentage of post-consumer recycled materials used to make the product?  I see many items and much packaging marked “made of recycled material” and nothing indicating the percentage of material used, or, whether it’s post-consumer or pre-consumer content.  I’ve even seen statements like “third-party certified” with no mention of who the third-party certifier might be, or, what the certification might be certifying!

That question leads me to believe that manufacturers and sellers of products are falling short in terms of stating their products’ actual content and are therefore misleading and misinforming the consumer.

It is the intent of Dolphin Blue to always educate and share knowledge with our customers and suppliers, as well as prospective customers, as to the environmental attributes and ecological value of what we provide, and who is certifying the ecological and social attributes that we so dearly value in sustaining our planet for future generations.

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Communicating the Right Message

Dolphin Blue was founded on the principle that we can all do something to assist in creating a sustainable planet for future generations.

We’ve always provided only office products that, at minimum, are certified for post consumer recycled material content, assuring the buyer that you are getting product that meets your requirements, and, that truly contributes to a sustainable planet for future generations.

It’s not often that, in my almost eighteen years of building the Dolphin Blue business, I receive such striking examples of what an entity is doing to not only contribute to sustainability, but also to articulate their actions in a very effective manner, such as the State of Pennsylvania’s online video. One of the key points discussed in this exemplary video is concerning the issue of greenwashing (a practice whereby a provider makes unsubstantiated claims regarding the environmental attributes of their product or service, such as “Third-party certified”, without naming the certifying organization, or, stating “recycled content”, without mentioning whether the recycled content is pre-consumer or post consumer, or, stating the percentage of recycled material). Without proper education, greenwashing is easily perpetrated on unknowing, unsuspecting consumers.

That is bad for the unknowing consumer and detrimental to the sustainability of our planet. It’s also ripping off our children’s future.

This exceptional presentation came to me through H2E (Hospitals for a Healthy Environment), of which Dolphin Blue is a long-time member. Please share this far and wide, so others may be able to benefit from this great presentation on Environmentally Preferable Purchasing.

Tom Kemper is the founder and president of Dolphin Blue Inc.

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