In its latest effort to optimize paper use and reduce environmental impact, Sprint will pilot a new kind of forest friendly paper for customer mailings, beginning in August. While the paper, made of wheat-straw byproduct, is not noticeably different to the naked eye than wood-derived paper, it offers a sustainable alternative and potential longer-term cost savings, as additional paper sources and suppliers are introduced into North America. Sprint’s pilot to use the wheat-straw paper for mailed customer correspondence is a first in the U.S.
In 1998, actor and long-time environmental advocate Woody Harrelson co-founded Prairie Paper Inc. The company spent 15 years in research and development and in 2012 launched production of its wheat-straw-based Step Forward Paper™, made from 80 percent wheat-straw waste and 20 percent FSC-certified wood fiber. Step Forward requires 65 percent less land area to produce one ton of paper on an annual basis than virgin tree-based paper and 50 percent less land area than paper with 30 percent recycled content. Today, Step Forward Copy Paper is available in the U.S. exclusively through Staples.com and Staples Advantage.
“It’s always been a big concern of mine that paper comes from forests,” Harrelson said in a video appeal to potential investors in 2013. “Now, it’s back to the farmer: You have wheat straw that is left over after farmers have harvested the crop for food — we’re now taking that ag waste and using it to make paper. It’s a real plus for the forests, it’s a real plus for the farmers and it’s going to be great for our future.”
Sprint has reduced the total weight of printing paper it has purchased annually by 83 percent since 2007. This effort was achieved by optimizing the weight and volume of its mailed customer correspondence and by communicating with and servicing customers online, among other efforts. At Sustainable Brands 2012, Sprint launched its two-in-one, reusable ecoEnvelope™ for customers who chose to continue receiving a paper bill, which has reduced paper use and saved the company more than $500,000 annually. Like Step Forward Paper, it is helping to advance sustainability throughout the mail industry.
“Sprint’s innovative approach to test-pilot the use of our paper in roll form will increase demand and showcase how paper made from agricultural waste fibers can compete on quality and price,” said Jeff Golfman, co-founder and president of Prairie Paper Inc. “Our goal is to establish a market that will support our plans to build a pulp and paper mill facility in North America, which will enable us to produce this paper with an even smaller environmental and economic footprint.”