Apple buys 36,000 acres of forest to create sustainable eco-friendly product packaging

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2015
Apple and The Conservation Fund are partnering to purchase more than 36,000 acres of vulnerable forestland in Maine and North Carolina, and will use the land to sustainably harvest materials that can be used for paper and packaging.


Brunswick Forest. Photo credit: The Conservation Fund


In a press release from The Conservation Fund published Thursday, the organization and Apple revealed that more than 32,400 acres on the Mattawamkeag River in Maine, as well as over 3,600 acres of pine and hardwood forest in Brunswick County, North Carolina, will be preserved. In all, the total land area is larger than the city of San Francisco.

The commitment made by Apple will provide the company with a steady supply of sustainably harvested timber for paper and pulp mills. The "working" forestland will enable Apple to make its product packaging even more environmentally friendly.

Lisa Jackson, Apple's head of environmental initiatives, penned a piece on Medium with Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund, in which the two explained the intent behind their agreement.

"Apple believes that paper, like energy, can be a renewable resource," they wrote. "So Apple is striving to supply 100 percent of the virgin fibers used in its paper and packaging from sustainably managed forests or controlled wood sources."


Reed Forest. Photo credit: (c)EcoPhotography


Reed Forest in Maine features wetlands, rivers, and upland forest that provide refuge for Atlantic salmon, bald eagles, northern goshawks and Canada lynx.

The Reed Forest project builds on a broader landscape of more than a million acres of conserved lands and interconnected forest habitat that stretches beyond the border into New Brunswick, Canada. Reed Forest will remain a working forest, ensuring continued fiber production and protecting jobs and recreational opportunities.

As for Brunswick Forest in North Carolina, the land is adjacent to the 17,00-acre Green Swamp Preserve, which builds connectivity and halts fragmentation for the National Natural Landmark. With high-quality pine savannas and striking and unusual plants and flowers, it has long been a conservation priority.


Brunswick Forest. Photo credit: The Conservation Fund


Apple's initiative protects forestlands through The Conservation Fund's Working Forest Fund (WFF). Pioneered by the Fund in the late 1990s, the program is an entirely new model for acquiring and permanently protecting ecologically significant portions of America's last, large, intact privately-held forests.

"Apple is clearly leading by example--one that we hope others will follow," Selzer said. "By all accounts, the loss of America's working forests is one of our nation's greatest environmental challenges. The initiative announced today is precedent-setting."

The full note from Jackson and Selzer is included below:
Why Apple Is Permanently Protecting Working Forests
By Lisa Jackson and Larry Selzer

Today, Apple and The Conservation Fund are announcing a collaboration designed to help America's working forests stay working forests. For Apple, this is the beginning of a worldwide effort, one that represents a new approach as it reassesses its impact on the world's paper supply chain.

Apple is focused on using only the resources it needs, and ensuring that it adds to the world's resources whenever possible. That leads to some innovative places. For instance, Apple recently announced all U.S. facilities and operations are powered by 100 percent renewable energy, and, increasingly, that's new, clean energy which Apple has helped add to the U.S. grid.

Apple believes that paper, like energy, can be a renewable resource. So Apple is striving to supply 100 percent of the virgin fibers used in its paper and packaging from sustainably managed forests or controlled wood sources.

But Apple is going beyond simply purchasing renewable resources to actually protecting and increasing the acreage of sustainably managed working forests.
The Conservation Fund has developed an entirely new, private sector-based approach to conserving forests -- raising corporate and charitable funds to purchase and manage these forestlands sustainably so they can thrive and continue fulfilling their vital role in the ecosystem while supplying business paper and packaging needs.

The threat to America's working forests is one of the most overlooked and urgent environmental stories of our time. We are in the midst of one of the greatest land transfers in history. In the last 15 years, we've already lost 23 million acres of forestland that provided the pulp, paper, and solid wood material for products we all use. That's roughly an area the size of Maine. As land continues to be sold and change hands at an alarming rate, an estimated 45 million more acres are currently in the crosshairs of development.

Our working forests clean the air we breathe, provide critical habitats for wildlife, and filter the water for over half of Americans. They also are important to the economy, supplying 2.8 million jobs, fueling mills, and sustaining hundreds of logging towns. Working forests are different from the protected national forests we visit with family and friends. Privately held, they represent the last large, intact forests left in America -- and they are at grave risk.

Solving this conservation challenge requires some of our most innovative thinking. Business and conservation must work hand in hand.

This partnership is mutually beneficial. Apple is quantifying the virgin paper footprint from its packaging. Apple is committed to zeroing out that impact by using paper more efficiently, increasing recycled paper content, sourcing paper sustainably, and conserving acreage of working forests around the world equivalent to its virgin paper footprint. The Conservation Fund is committed to identifying and conserving those acres in the U.S. Through conservation easements, they will ensure these lands remain forests in the future. This helps preserve the supply of raw materials for paper while providing permanent environmental protection and fighting climate change.

Together, Apple and The Conservation Fund are permanently protecting over 36,000 acres of working forest in the eastern U.S. In the Reed Forest of Aroostook County, Maine, wetlands, rivers, and upland forest provide refuge for Atlantic salmon, bald eagle, and Canada lynx. And in Brunswick Forest located in southern North Carolina, the high-quality pine savannas and unique plants and flowers have long made this land a conservation priority. Keeping these working forests intact will ensure continued fiber production and protect jobs and recreational opportunities.

The collective annual production of paper fiber from these two forests is equivalent to nearly half of the virgin fiber that went into iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac, and Apple TV packaging last year.
Our hope is that other companies will consider joining with The Conservation Fund in evaluating and zeroing out their own forest footprints. We have a short window to get this right. If we don't protect this crucial part of our ecosystem now, we may never be able to put the pieces back together.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 63
    I've dealt with paper mills for over 40 years and to the best of my knowledge they all use "farmed" wood grown on fast growth plots dedicated to pulp production. The only thing new is the preservation aspect. But, who would be dumb enough to try to produce pulp from hardwood?
  • Reply 2 of 63
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,437member
    Great to preserve the forest, which I assume they'd really be doing since they have the endorsement of the Conservation Fund, which I assume is legit, but does paper and packaging need virgin fibers at all? Can't the packaging be made totally from recycled paper and cloth?

    And if that means that Apple's products have to come in brown boxes instead of shiny white boxes, who cares?
  • Reply 3 of 63
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Paper manufacturing is a really complicated subject. The conservation of forests is a noble undertaking but the actual paper manufacturing process is the more environmentally impactful aspect. There are just so many nuances ranging from the species of trees, transportation, water usage, to the chemical treatments, that all contribute to the discussion. Sustainability of the forests is just one small part of the paper industry.

     

    Recently there have been many certifications promotions launched and a number of organizations have tried to promote their conservation programs, although several of the so called 'non-profit' organizations turned out to be fronts for the paper/pulp/timber industries themselves. 

  • Reply 4 of 63
    frankiefrankie Posts: 371member

    Sounds great!  Now let's do the same thing for people.

  • Reply 5 of 63

    I've been saying for a while that Apple should create something that is the equivalent of Bell Labs to further cutting-edge corporate innovation. While not quite in the same league, it is becoming more and  more apparent that environmental sustainability is the area in which Apple has decided to make a significant innovation push.

     

    A company of Apple's size and resources can make a significant dent in this arena for (relatively) small commitments. 

     

    Kudos, Mr. Cook, Ms. Jackson!

  • Reply 6 of 63
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post



    Great to preserve the forest, which I assume they'd really be doing since they have the endorsement of the Conservation Fund, which I assume is legit, but does paper and packaging need virgin fibers at all? Can't the packaging be made totally from recycled paper and cloth?



    And if that means that Apple's products have to come in brown boxes instead of shiny white boxes, who cares?

    Conservation Fund is about as credible as an NGO gets. They are widely used by companies as a major source of external verification of environmental efforts.

     

    Your point about recycling well-taken, but the problem is, only about one-third of the fiber needed by paper companies comes from recycled material (even though recycling has come a long way in the US -- over 55% of the paper in the US now recycled).

     

    I think that experiments such as the one Apple is getting involved with are just more ways to explore new options at a fairly low cost. It's not as though there's just one solution to these types of problems. 

  • Reply 7 of 63
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by frankie View Post

     

    Sounds great!  Now let's do the same thing for people.


    What does that mean?

  • Reply 8 of 63

    @mstone, interesting point about the nonprofits. This example does seem more legit, and I assume Apple would have vetted this organization in their usual thorough fashion. 

     

    @zoetmb, Apple products did once come in brown boxes. More recently, the refurbs (although my recently purchased refurb Mini did come in white which does look more "spiffy"). White can be done without chlorine, which is one of the points mstone alluded to. I'm afraid that shiny white look really does enhance the experience, and Apple applied their design aesthetic to the very look and "unboxing experience" of the packaging. They did reduce the size of the packaging some years ago, at least.

  • Reply 9 of 63
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,252member
    Now, if Cook would do what the CEO of Gravity just did, that would be earth shaking. Apple has made billionaires out of who knows how many top people. More money than they can spend in several lifetimes. So much money that they often choose to give it away. Why not increase the salaries of their employees who CAN spend it in their own lifetimes--who could easily spend that increase each month in fact, just to live. That would be truly disruptive.
  • Reply 10 of 63
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,452member

    Sustainability is sustainable for only so long.

  • Reply 11 of 63
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 651member

    Quote:

     

    Originally Posted by frankie View Post

     

    Sounds great!  Now let's do the same thing for people.

    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

     

    What does that mean?


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green

  • Reply 12 of 63
    afrodriafrodri Posts: 190member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post



    Great to preserve the forest, which I assume they'd really be doing since they have the endorsement of the Conservation Fund, which I assume is legit, but does paper and packaging need virgin fibers at all? Can't the packaging be made totally from recycled paper and cloth?



    And if that means that Apple's products have to come in brown boxes instead of shiny white boxes, who cares?

     

    Sometimes it can be made from totally recycled components, but sometimes not.  

     

    First, not all paper/packaging is recycled, and the demand for packaging is not decreasing, so there still needs to be new fiber added.

     

    Also, as paper products are repeatedly recycled their fibers get shorter which leads to weaker paper (though for some applications, shorter fibers are better).  You might be able to recycle paper 4-6 times, but the later recycles may only be good for newsprint or low-strength applications.  Even a 'simple' corrugated cardboard box will require different fiber lengths and qualities for the flay layers and the corrugated part in the middle. I'm guessing Apple's high quality boxes require even more exacting standards – not just to make them shiny and white, but to give them enough strength and durability in shipping. As I understand, Apple really pushes the bounds on packaging density to reduce environmental waste, energy use, and increase shipping density (i.e. save money). 

  • Reply 13 of 63
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by williamh View Post

     

    Quote:

     

    Originally Posted by frankie View Post

     

    Sounds great!  Now let's do the same thing for people.

    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

     

    What does that mean?


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green


    I'll assume you were missing the "/s" tag.

     

    If not, replace the above sentence with: grow up.

  • Reply 14 of 63

    This is fantastic. Tim is the new Captain Planet! If I had any photoshop skills whatsoever I'd transplant Tim's face over Captain Planet's body.

     



    I remember watching the Captain Planet cartoon as a kid (in the US), and even a particular episode where they talked about forrest sustainability. They stopped some evil habitat destroyers or something, then used a special aircraft that harvested select trees in a sustainable manner, thus preserving the forrest. This sounds exactly like what Apple is doing! (Minus the aircraft of course.)

     

    It's so great to see Apple making such a significant, meaningful impact on the environment, which will likely be magnified substantially by others following their lead.* This is particularly refreshing in the context of all the ineffectual handwringing and doomsday prognostications about gaseous plant food (CO2) that are dominating the current discussion on the environment. The environment would be so much better off if even one tenth the the resources were spent on efforts like this, rather than efforts to study, convene summits, and promote global-warming/cooling/warming/climate-change/climate-weirding**.

     

    *Apple, as usual, is as practical as they are idealistic, which is the most effective way to tackle complicated and controversial issues. Apple understands that the only way sustainability will work is if it goes both ways. Unfortunately, most people aren't willing to sacrifice much to support efforts like preservation (financially, emotionally, etc.), so there must be incentives in place to make it more doable and acceptable to more people. Apple understands that not everyone is as financially well off as them, so instead of buying their way out of environmental damage (which they could easily do), they are helping to set up sustainable systems. This is also something that is understood by the more effective conservation groups (like The Conservation Fund and Conservation International [my favorite environmental organization]).

     

    **This is a new term being used to try to convince people that any bad weather is somehow the result of climate change. For instance, Hurricane Sandy was hilariously attributed to global warming, yet overall the hurricanes have been very limited in the past several years, the exact opposite of what was predicted. This new phrase is being used in part because the scientists have been unable to make accurate long term (or even short term) predictions about the environment (and thus unable to justify the terms global warming or climate change), and partly in a desperate effort to condescendingly convince 'the masses' that they're super for real about how significant climate change is.

  • Reply 15 of 63
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 651member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

     

    I'll assume you were missing the "/s" tag.

     

    If not, replace the above sentence with: grow up.




    Do you really need tags to figure out simple things?  If yes: <b> That's a rhetorical question. </b>

  • Reply 16 of 63
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,160member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post



    Great to preserve the forest, which I assume they'd really be doing since they have the endorsement of the Conservation Fund, which I assume is legit, but does paper and packaging need virgin fibers at all? Can't the packaging be made totally from recycled paper and cloth?



    And if that means that Apple's products have to come in brown boxes instead of shiny white boxes, who cares?

    They aren't actually preserving the entire forest. Parts of it will get cut down to supply Apple's packaging needs. A working forest doesn't mean it's protected from logging. 

  • Reply 17 of 63
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member

    This a very admirable move.

     

    I wonder if growing hemp might not be something they could also look at as that can be turned into paper without vast quantities of noxious chemicals.

     

    Quote:


     "Since 1937, about half the forests in the world have been cut down to make paper. If hemp had not been outlawed, most would still be standing, oxygenating the planet." - Alan Bock


  • Reply 18 of 63

    If Apple wanted to do the same thing more economically, they would just plant/harvest acres of hemp fiber.  No better way to save forests, then by leading by example and not using trees when there are better sustainable alternatives!  Apple is too concerned with being PC it seems.  Excuse the pun.  

     

    For example:

    http://www.greenpackaginggroup.com/packaging/packaging-made-from-coconut-fiber-and-hemp-fiber/

  • Reply 19 of 63
    formosaformosa Posts: 261member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by PatchyThePirate View Post

     

    It's so great to see Apple making such a significant, meaningful impact on the environment, which will likely be magnified substantially by others following their lead.* This is particularly refreshing in the context of all the ineffectual handwringing and doomsday prognostications about gaseous plant food (CO2) that are dominating the current discussion on the environment. The environment would be so much better off if even one tenth the the resources were spent on efforts like this, rather than efforts to study, convene summits, and promote global-warming/cooling/warming/climate-change/climate-weirding**.


     

    Agreed. Between Tim Cook and Bill Gates and a few others, they are making tangible efforts at bettering the environment. They are the anti-Al Gore.

     

    This forest acquisition IMO is much better than a solar panel farm. Keep buying/donating more land, Tim.

  • Reply 20 of 63
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by libertyforall View Post

     

    If Apple wanted to do the same thing more economically, they would just plant/harvest acres of hemp fiber.  


    The issue with eco-friendly paper like unbleached hemp is that it is not as smooth or as white as most high end consumer products companies want for their packaging. In this case, it is probably one of those footprint offset trade examples where Apple ecologically maintains their US timber and it is used in the US by others. Apple actually needs their paper in China so getting eucalyptus pulp from Australia is probably better because it requires less shipping, hence, less fossil fuel emissions. Eucalyptus is also much better paper material than other species for high quality uses. In any case, making paper uses up a lot of energy, water and bleaching with chlorine is harmful to the environment.

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