A Guide to Buying Post-Consumer Recycled Products

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If you’ve been following our series on post-consumer recycled products, then you have a pretty good idea about what PCR is and why it matters so much to me. What you may still be wondering is, “How do I make sure I find and buy PCR products?” And unfortunately, that question is more complex than it seems.

There is no all-encompassing database of PCR products — it just takes good, old-fashioned research to find what you’re looking for.

The Wording on Packages

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Eco-Friendly Dump Truck Toy

Reading product packaging carefully is important. If a product says it’s made from recycled content, look for details. Does it specify whether that’s pre-consumer recycled or post-consumer recycled? (Any kind of recycled is better than nothing, but post-consumer recycling means that when someone dropped an item in the blue bin for recycling, it was actually used to make this new item you’re now contemplating purchasing. Pre-consumer recycling involves taking things like leftover scraps that weren’t initially used and finding a purpose for them.)

Do the claims apply to just the packaging, just the product, or both? How high is the percentage of recycled content, and of that, what’s the ratio of post-consumer recycled content? A product can claim to be made of “recycled content” even if only a tiny percentage contains anything recycled, but the FTC requires that the label tell you exactly how much is recycled (unless the product or package contains 100 percent recycled materials — in which case, that’s probably a pretty good item to consider purchasing!).

The Products Where PCR Thrives

It can be discouraging to find a product that touts its recycled content, only to find that it’s really not so PCR-laden at all. And it can take a while to find an item that fits the bill in all the areas that matter, like functionality, design, and sustainability. There is some good news, though: Lots of different kinds of retailers offer post-consumer recycled goods, from hardware stores and automotive centers to furniture shops and clothing boutiques.

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Boise Aspen 100% Recycled Multipurpose Paper

One category I’m proud to say often leads the field in PCR is office supplies (it is what I built my business on, after all). Recycled paper has come a long way; you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a high-quality, recycled-content version and its virgin-tree counterpart.

Consider Boise Aspen 100: perfectly new, safe, nontoxic, environmentally responsible, 100 percent post-consumer recycled copy and printer paper. In addition to the recycled element, the paper is whitened without the use of chlorinated compounds or chlorine bleach, eliminating some rather caustic and harmful chemical processes. Those kind of additional environmental and human health benefits that aren’t always obvious are often an added bonus when you make a PCR purchase.

Certifications Worth Seeking

When looking to buy products, it can be helpful to see if they’ve been certified by a third party in environmental responsibility. Not all of these necessarily concern PCR, but they can be a good place to start:

Green Seal: Green Seal, a certification that’s been around since 1989, considers the total environmental impact of a product and works to reduce that impact while maintaining the same performance and quality you would expect.

Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) or Processed Chlorine Free (PCF): The Chlorine Free Products Association is an independent, not-for-profit accreditation and standard-setting organization for evaluating chlorine-free products. Only papers made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled fiber can be PCF.

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): FSC certification ensures that products come from well-managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits.

Green-e: An independent certification and verification program for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

CarbonNeutral: For this certification, a company, brand, or product must accurately measure its carbon footprint, then commit to a reduction strategy and carbon offset program to prove their activities will not result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate change.

Doing Our Part

We know it isn’t always easy to find PCR products, and that’s why we do the work for you — asking companies tough questions, verifying certifications, and making sure that everything we offer on DolphinBlue.com is environmentally responsible. On each product, we’ll tell you the percentage of PCR content and clearly explain what that means.

We don’t know any other companies that go to the lengths we do to both verify facts and educate consumers on this issue, but we know it’s worth it. Every time you buy something containing PCR materials, you’re helping to close the loop — reducing our reliance on virgin resources and bolstering the market for recyclables so that more products in the future can make use of PCR content.

We all win when we recycle, and we win more completely when we purchase PCR products, preserving our planet for future generations.

Tom Kemper is the founder of Dolphin Blue, a company founded in 1993 on the belief that we can all be responsible in what we use. Dolphin Blue sells the most environmentally responsible home, family, pet, office, and business products available.

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Can Post-Consumer Recycled Products Save the Songbirds?

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Many terms get thrown around in the field of sustainability, with some carrying more weight than others. Amid all the terminology floating about, “post-consumer recycled” is truly one worth knowing — and understanding.

In simple terms, post-consumer recycled (PCR) refers to the portion of reused material that might be part of a product’s total material composition. It’s the recycled portion of a product that’s derived from material collected by the consumer after the product from which the recovered material came was used for its intended purpose.

That’s a rather dry explanation, though — what it can even more succinctly be defined as is the key to saving life on earth as we know it. From the songbirds above our heads that croon a tune to the snails below our feet that inch along, the world’s creatures are relying on us to conserve resources.

Creating a Future

The percentage of PCR material used in the manufacturing of a new product generally determines the level of environmental responsibility awarded a product (or the manufacturer of the product) by consumers, a third-party certification organization, the manufacturing industry, or any of the numerous environmental groups that grant awards for the level of environmental responsibility of a product or process. The higher the percentage, the more eco-friendly the product.

All PCR content has a past — and, fortunately, a better future than what it could have been destined for. Instead of being hauled to a landfill in a socioeconomically depressed area (that’s where landfills are always located, after all) where it would burden the ground with yet more trash, it skips the waste stream. Instead of being burned in a waste-to-energy facility, where it would likely produce adverse effects on human health, such as noxious emissions, it escapes being released into the air in the form of something toxic.

Instead, it finds new life as everything from children’s toys to facial tissues — which is much more productive than being buried or burned, I’d say.

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How Does It Work?

Let’s say you buy a gallon of milk and drink it. You place the empty plastic jug (#2 HDPE, otherwise known as high-density polyethylene) into the blue bin. The jug gets picked up and returned to a recycling center. It goes from there, with thousands of other jugs, to a plastics processor that supplies post-consumer recycled plastic stock to manufacturers. The bales of #2 HDPE plastic, including your empty jug — along with all your neighbors’ empty jugs — re-enters the economic marketplace as feedstock to make a perfectly new, safe, nontoxic, and environmentally responsible children’s toy. How’s that for teamwork with the family down the street? And you didn’t even have to call a neighborhood meeting to do it.

Here’s another example: This time, you buy a ream of paper and use it to make copies of garage sale flyers, while your partner prints a presentation for work and your kids create artwork masterpieces destined for the gallery of your kitchen fridge. Once the papers are no longer needed, you place them into a recycling bin. The paper gets picked up and returned to a recycling center. It goes from there, with millions of other sheets of previously printed paper, to a paper processor that supplies post-consumer recycled paper stock to paper products manufacturers. The bales of paper, including your paper — again, along with all your neighbors’ contributions — re-enters the economic marketplace as feedstock to make perfectly new, safe, nontoxic, and environmentally responsible copy and printer paper (and yes, it’s just as nice-looking as the non-recycled stuff — I bet you can’t even tell the difference).

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PCR sounds pretty great, right? And it is. Keep in mind, though, that the process only works when consumers both recycle everything they can, and then buy the products with PCR content. If you reward manufacturers who institute earth-friendly practices, your loyalty — and your dollars — say a lot.

However, it can be confusing at times when you’re staring at products on the shelf and trying to decide which one is best. Pre-consumer recycled products are also labeled recycled, although it’s not quite the same thing. These products incorporate manufacturer waste, like the leftover scraps and by-products that never made it to market for whatever reason, as opposed to items that did find their way into the hands of consumers and went through the recycling process. Anything recycled is better than anything not recycled, mind you, but post-consumer recycled beats out pre-consumer recycled in positive earth impact — so look a little closer at labels to be sure that’s what you’re getting whenever possible.

There’s Much at Stake

Recycling saves massive amounts of energy, conserves huge volumes of water, eliminates the use of chemicals, and saves precious natural resources, like trees, air, and water. As I mentioned before, though, recycling isn’t enough — you have to go that extra step and purchase the recycled products to really make a difference.

We’re a very interconnected population of creatures who, without each other, cannot continue to exist. As we destroy our forests, we destroy the homes of beautiful songbirds. When the songbirds die off, we see an increase in the number of insects. Songbirds eat insects, and without songbirds, we’ll only use man’s way of dealing with insects — bringing out chemicals that are toxic to us and many other creatures. We then see a rise in the occurrence of disease, cancers, and numerous other health disorders.

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As we preserve our natural world by reducing, reusing, and buying products made from recycled materials, we allow the planet to regenerate itself. With 7 billion of us now inhabiting the earth, and that number projected to expand to 9-plus billion in the next 50 years, we’re over-burdening this world’s capacity to renew itself. We’re endangering the opportunity to live a bountiful and thriving existence — for us, for the songbirds, for everything else.

Buying PCR content products is only one small action we can all take, yet it is one big step in the right direction.

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Dolphin Blue’s 20th Anniversary

Dolphin Blue’s 20th Year in Providing ONLY the Most Environmentally Responsible Products for Business, Home, Garden, Pets and Kids

Around two weeks have passed since Dolphin Blue was recognized as a B Corp “Best for the World” company. It is such an amazing honor for me to know that we are among the best of the best of small companies, in the entire world, that are “being the change that we seek in our world“.

I think fondly of my dream of 22 years ago, having a business that could make a difference in our world, and would make a difference in the livability of Mother Earth for future generations.

I sit here quietly, in my tiny house of 200 square feet, made of recovered wood from tear down Victorian homes of yesteryear, church pew countertops, Victorian stained-glass door and beautiful art-glass windows, 130 year old recovered cypress floor planks, and milk paint bead-board cathedral ceiling, thinking of the fact that it has been so easy to live on the offerings of Mother Earth. She has given to me, and to all whom I know, and, all of mankind and fellow-creaturekind for all of her existence, without a whimper, with only love, asking us softly, to listen to her and all her creatures, great and small. That does include us.

What began for me as an attempt to recycle my way, and human society’s way, out of the mess we’ve been creating, back in 1992, has become not just a small and very successful business, it has also become for me, a calling to serve our Great Mother Planet, all her occupants, and all occupants, of all species, to come. By serving that which has served me and my ancestors, for so many millions of years, I better serve my Higher Source.

Life is precious, opening for me so many opportunities to live a rich and fulfilling existence, filled with Joy and Abundance, and bringing my Spirit into Connection with all that makes up this amazing place we call our home, Earth.

As Dolphin Blue opened its door for doing business on April 9, 1994, I had magnificent thoughts of creating a billion-dollar enterprise. Little did I know at that time, that my objective would be achieved many times over, measured however, in wisdom and grace, not in greenbacks. In October of 2013, I was granted a second chance at life, hanging on to each breath, as I prepared for leaving this all behind. My God smiled on me that uncertain day, and said, “Live, and live with Joy, live with Abandon, live with Love.”

As each new day emerges, I relish the opportunity before me to be human, be connected to all around me, to love all around me that brings life, and to take my human-ness into everything I do, every decision I make.

As part of my recent two-and-a-half year healing journey, I have been presented with more challenges than I thought humanly possible, and, with relative ease, looking back, handled them all. With my loving and self-less wife at my side, and numerous friends and adopted family, I very capably and easily handled every challenge presented me.

 Fiercely dedicated and exceptionally-competent staff at Dolphin Blue, including Mike, Robin, Lupe, Tatiana, Christina, Ryan, Alexandra, Haley and Alison, kept things thriving while I’ve been immersed in my healing journey. Thank you DB family.

Now, I’m back. My tiny house has been my healing sanctuary, and continues to deliver energy, grace and a connection to All That Is.

Margaret is my beautiful wife. She kept me alive, literally. She and I are beginning to dance our way through life. Funny how some of us forgot to have fun, as we got too serious about everything. It is time for all of us to just dance with life, and dance with each other.

Dolphin Blue has been my passion, and to a fault, my only passion. It is now a passion, among many passions. It is my passion to complete our 7 KW solar panel array on our newly remodeled and deeply green home in the next two months, and it is my passion to soon be driving an all electric Tesla vehicle, plugging into our solar grid each night, recharging from our Universe’s source of power.

When I began Dolphin Blue twenty years ago, we offered only Office Supplies. Today, we are the single largest provider of Printed Envelopes, made of post-consumer recycled paper (made from old paper that has been re-pulped, not from tree fiber) and printed with soybean-based inks. I know of no company in existence that provides more environmentally responsible printed envelopes, to anyone on this planet, than does Dolphin Blue to our United States federal government. Thank you Dolphin Blue’s federal agency customers.

In the last three years, we’ve expanded our product offering beyond business products. We now offer products for the Home, such as Cleaning Products, Garden Supplies, Kitchen and Tableware, Pet Beds and Toys, School Supplies, and Children’s Toys

All are made from recycled material, organic ingredients, environmentally responsible materials and processes, renewable energy, are non-toxic and BPA-free, and are guaranteed to your satisfaction.

All work better than their toxic and polluting counterparts, and ALL are made in the USA. I love knowing we provide only products that lessen the burden on our planet, and reduce, sometimes dramatically, humanity’s carbon footprint on Mother Earth, giving her a little breathing room while we figure it all out (what being human is supposed to look like).

It is my sincerest desire that all who read this know that life is Good, that we, as Human Beings are all Good, and that we can all make a difference. We All go to Heaven. We are in Heaven. Thank you for allowing me to do what I love. Thank you for your love.

We are all in this together, let’s make the best of it, for now, and for our children’s future. Earth Day is coming fast, April 22. Let’s honor the Great Mother who provides us all from our earthly garden, and honor our children by leaving them a future abundant with all that we’ve enjoyed.

Thank you Mom. Thank you All.

Tom Kemper
Founder, President & CEO
Dolphin Blue, Inc.
Dolphinblue.com

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Infographic Friday: Buy American, Create Jobs

It’s a mathematical fact. If we all buy just 5% more US made products we will create a MILLION new jobs. Click here to read an important message from Dolphin Blue Founder and CEO, Tom Kemper, then click here to learn about the Million Jobs Project and start making a change today!

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Ray Anderson, Interface Chairman and Sustainability Leader, Dies at 77

Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface Inc., was perhaps one of the most vocal proponents of environmentalism in business.  He was one of my heroes and mentors, and I’m sure a true inspiration to many others working in the realm of sustainability.   Ray was the relentless force in…

To continue reading this article, please visit: http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Ray-Anderson-Interface-Chairman-and-Sustainability-Leader-Dies-at-77.html

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Transitioning from a wasteful planet, to a sustainable planet

I recently returned from a Western Caribbean cruise, where I spent one week on a ship weighing 130,000 tons and measuring 1,004 feet in length. I was among 4,500 other human beings, all being fed food requiring refrigeration, powered by petroleum. Each cabin, of which there were approximately 200 on most decks, had furniture, cabinetry, and various other materials including wood, plastics, and metal. Despite having a TV hanging on the wall of most cabins, the uppermost deck had a 40-foot by 20-foot big screen TV. Why? Because cruise lines use such enticements to get people to leave home, so they can experience ALL the comforts of home.

Upon returning from my cruise, I participated in a euronews forum asking, “What would it take to really speed up the transition to a carbon neutral, sustainable planet?” First and foremost…

To continue reading this article, please visit http://www.dolphinblue.com/pg-Transitioning-from-a-wasteful-planet-to-a-sustainable-planet.html

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Sinking Our Economy, Cementing Our Destiny

I recently heard about, and subsequently registered to be active in the AmericaSpeaks National Town Meeting on our Budget and the Economy.

After reading the press release covering the National Town Meeting, and it’s 19 participating large cities (that were satellite connected and another 50+ smaller cities that were “on their own”), I knew I had to be present to deliver my side of what I perceive as the reason our federal government is in deep debt, and what I perceive and believe are the reasons for our economy being in such a frightening transformation for most people.

On Saturday, June 26, four hundred lively and concerned citizens showed up at the Dallas Convention Center, Ballroom C to express our views toward balancing the US Budget.

In anticipation of being outnumbered on my progressive views, I wrote the following piece to share with my fellow symposium attendees, expecting the majority of them to be from the radically-opposed, corporate freedom and big business as usual crowd.  What I discovered in my being there, was that this country’s politics have transformed, particularly since the main presenters and funders of the National Town Meeting are The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the advisory Committee is populated with the Business Roundtable, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, and a few other think tanks I believe are pro-free trade and anti-environmental as well as being generally opposed to social justice.

My pre-NTM views and opinions follow:

If the reason for this meeting is to ensure there is an economic future to be enjoyed by all of us, then I am here to represent those who want to ensure there is a sustainable, healthy and vibrant natural world remaining for all of us. Look around at what is happening as we sit here debating. The gulf is being destroyed, and many species living there are being destroyed, because of our unwillingness to look differently and with a realization that we need more to become what we aspire to be, than to just amass more consumer goods and more oil-dependent products.

Without a world that provides the healthy air we breathe, the clean water we drink, and fresh, nutritious foods we eat, and our fellow species which pollinate, prey on insects and rodents and keep nature in balance, we’re all doomed.

Of utmost importance to me is insuring that we have a healthy and sustainable planet not just for us, but for future generations.

If one of the intentions of this NTM is to return to the former days of unsustainable economic growth, then we’re all simply accelerating our eventual demise. You may have heard of Peak Oil, if you haven’t, read Micheal C. Ruppert’s Confronting Collapse. Or, Google the Post Carbon Institute or Matthew Simmons. Matthew is a close friend of our former President, George W Bush. See what Matthew has to say on the subject of Peak Oil.

We are fast approaching the end of the age of oil, oil that is capable of running our and the world’s economy. Without that oil, we face a future unlike anything we can now imagine. Google The End of Suburbia by James Howard Kunstler.

If we return to the heyday of unlimited, damn the torpedoes growth, we only accelerate our final collapse. The time we now have is barely sufficient in allowing us to dig our way out of the mess we’re not being told (by our leaders) we’re currently facing.

Campaign contributions gain access and favorable legislation for corporations, who increase their profitability by sending US worker’s jobs overseas. We lose the income tax base, the unemployed workers then become dependent on the healthcare system, mainly county hospitals, and those hospitals receiving federal funds get pushed harder and harder, stressing our local economies and national budget even further.

(in the NTM, I learned the following in a conversation with one of the attendees: Les was telling me he has an asthmatic condition. In a recent episode where he was wheezing, he went to his local hospital’s emergency room, where he was given a blood test and a $ 26.00 prescription. Three months went by when Les received a hospital bill, dunning him for another $ 50.00. He asked the hospital to send him the itemized invoice for his emergency room visit. A few days passed, and Les received a bill showing the $ 50.00 the hospital wanted from him, plus another $ 7000.00 the hospital had invoiced Medicare. He was outraged to say the least.)

How many of these type incidents are happening without our knowledge. No wonder the Medicare and Medicaid programs are stressing the system. The hospital corporations, like the irresponsible giant corporations, are out of control. And our Congress, in its greed, has allowed them to behave in this manner.

Corporate subsidies such as defense dollars expended to conquer countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, are funded by you and me, bankrupting our government and disrupting our economy even further. Once Iraq is under US troops’ domination, companies such as Halliburton, MCI, Verizon, AT&T, Boeing, Blackwater, etc. get huge contracts (funded by you and me) to build infrastructure, which generates future business for these companies, who have given generously to our Congresspersons. We see no return from this expenditure. Socialized risk and expenditure, privatized profit. How long will this failed model continue?

How many jobs have been lost to NAFTA, CAFTA, MFN trade status with China, open markets and free flow of capital, so that our most profitable corporations can off-shore our jobs, derailing our economy further and deepening our dependence on foreign governments and foreign investors who control our destiny. All so a few obscenely wealthy corporations and heartless individuals can get richer and richer, while many of our employable, capable fellow Americans starve.

Healthcare is in critical condition because we’re being fed genetically-modified food and food heavily treated with pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. The food is being raised and shipped from distances many thousands of miles from our tables, causing the food to be heavily dependent on petroleum, creating ever-increasing toxic emissions. We’re eating oil. We’re drinking Viagra, Lipitor, Aleve, Allegra, Flomax, Xanax and Wellbutrin, as these all combine in our bodies, entering us through the tap water we drink. If we drink bottled water and eat from fast food plastic containers, we ingest BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals leaching from the plastic and entering our bodies. If you want to lower healthcare costs, clean up our Congress that so freely takes campaign contributions from BIG pharma. Clean up the USDA and FDA, agencies that are tasked with protecting us, that are now staffed with industry management and lobbyists, who continually enter that revolving door that provides access to more money and more power.

Our water is being privatized, and we’re drinking water contained in plastic, made from petroleum. All so corporations can generate ever-higher profits.

Beef, pork, chickens and other meat giving livestock are being raised and slaughtered in conditions that make not only the animals unhealthy, we are increasingly unhealthier for ingesting animals that have no life-giving energy, no life-giving spirit. We’re being fed animals that are being fed each other, that are being fed toxic food, and are living in conditions not qualified to be considered life at all.

Is it any wonder healthcare costs are continually rising? Is it any wonder Medicare and Medicaid budgets are continually increasing?

If we want to truly address the budget and healthcare in this country, we must first start by reeling in the campaign contributors, the wealthiest in our country and the corporations that are out of control and in violation of human trust, then, we must reform our electoral system and our legislators, who are so greedily allowing our country to be destroyed and bankrupted. We must also take our own responsible steps to do what is right and good for not just us, but for our children and their children. We must preserve our plant, our beautiful garden, because it is the only one we will ever have.
(end of my pre-NTM address)

As I participated with the four other attendees that sat at my table, I was respectfully heard, had plenty of time to express my aforementioned views, and generally had a very enjoyable time participating in the act of balancing the federal budget, something our Congresspersons should be doing in Washington, rather than fighting amongst each other and looking out only for the interest of their campaign funders.

As the early polls came in from the first few questions that were posed to all 3500 participants nationwide, I began to realize the responses appeared to me to be very much in alignment with my personal views. This was a very pleasant surprise. The remainder of the day produced participant views that stayed very much in alignment with my environmental and social views. Indeed, it was obvious many of us were pleased. There is still hope for America!

At the wrap-up of the Dallas NTM on Saturday, there were Theme Team messages voted on by all active 3500 participants in 70 cities across the US. One of the messages for Congress was “If 3500 of us, who sat down for one day, could collaborate and, respectfully dialog with agreement to reach a balanced budget, why can’t you?” I think I know the answer to that question…

  • We want to balance the budget!
  • We’re not being lobbied by every special-interest lobbying group for meeting their desired agenda!

The National Town Meeting went very well, surprisingly, and, unexpectedly, the opportunity for ALL voices to be heard was extended and welcomed. I believe the voices of those representing a vision of a healthy and sustainable planet for our children were present, were heard, and the overwhelming outcome reflected that.

A preliminary report, which was prepared and ready for all participants prior to our departure on Saturday, is available here as a PDF.

And, some articles that have been published online following the National Town Meeting…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roger-hickey/in-deficit-town-meetings_b_627030.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-kuttner/its-the-jobs-stupid_b_627141.html

It was fun being a participant in an event concerning such a critical issue. This may have been the biggest statement the American people, “We the People” have made in collaboration with our political detractors and deniers, in a peaceful and respectful manner.

We should all pat ourselves on the back and be proud of what we did on Saturday. Now, we must make sure Congress and the President do what we’ve shown them “We the People” can do, and do what we elected them to do.

To join in the AmericaSpeaks discussion, visit www.usabudgetdiscussion.org.

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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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CEO’s Green Wedding

In anticipation to the upcoming wedding season, Thomas Kemper (CEO of Dolphin Blue, Inc.) answered an email from a writer about his wedding and how he made it green and environmentally friendly. Throughout the courtship of Thomas and Margaret, the couple made eco-friendly items a priority, with Margaret changing her outlook on the environment and sustainability, and utilizing it in her medical practice. It seemed only fitting to bring their ideals to their wedding once Tom proposed.

The wedding was a three-day celebration held on a ranch here in Texas. Guests enjoyed the outside weather, the basic but elegant wedding setting, and the sustainable and earth-friendly attributes combined with the traditional wedding aspects.

To green their wedding they used the following:

  • Wedding invitations were printed on paper that is 100% post consumer recycled, FSC-certified, processed chlorine free and made carbon-neutral with Green-E certified renewable wind energy.
  • Envelopes were made of paper with the same environmental attributes (All thank you cards sent after the wedding were also made of the same paper and envelopes).
  • The food was locally-grown, organic, and came from small farmers.
  • Wine and beer served were from a Llano, Texas (hill-country) winery and a Ft. Worth microbrewery.
  • On the wedding day, the catered lunch was prepared and served by Kozy Kitchen, a local Dallas-based family restaurant that offers a gluten-free, locally-grown fare.
  • All plastic plates, cups and utensils we used were made of 100% post consumer recycled plastic yogurt cups, collected by the manufacturer through a successful take-back recycling program, as well as all napkins and paper towels.

Overall, the weekend was a success and a great start to Thomas’ marriage to Margaret and, inevitably, their commitment to sustainability will continue to grow throughout their relationship and within both their businesses.

Have you been a guest at a green wedding or had your own? What is some advice we can give to others to help make their wedding a sustainable one?

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