Living Tree Paper

When lifelong environmental advocate Carolyn Moran started her own magazine, (a “journal of spiritual ecology and activism” called Talking Leaves) in 1989, she resolved to print on the most environmentally friendly paper she could find.

Having seen massive clear-cutting of land she had loved in Oregon, Moran was dedicated to slowing deforestation caused by the paper industry, which consumes more than 40 percent of the world’s wood harvest. A five-year search for the perfect non wood paper for Talking Leaves led Moran to explore imported tree-free products from China to Eastern Europe before she met a US-based supplier of non-wood fibers and pulps who encouraged her to start her own paper company.

Today, Moran’s Living Tree Paper Company produces eco-friendly paper by combining post-consumer recycled fibers or certified sustainably harvested wood pulp with non wood pulps (such as sustainably grown hemp and agricultural residue from the flax seed oil industry).

“[By using] some of the billions of tons of agricultural residues available, [we’re preventing them from being] burned in the field, causing severe air pollution, or being landfilled,” Moran says.

The consumer benefits from this arrangement as well as the environment, because in addition to being rapidly renewable, hemp and flax produce long fibers that add strength to paper made from post-consumer recycled material. Furthermore, unlike conventional paper companies, Living Tree does not use toxic chemicals like chlorine to whiten its paper. And because non-wood and recycled fibers are more easily pulped than virgin wood, its papers require less energy to produce.

While Living Tree Paper originally focused on retail sales, Moran has recently found a reliable wholesale customer base in the entertainment industry. Musicians from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Madonna have turned to Living Tree Paper for their CD booklets, posters, and promotional materials to lessen the environmental impact of their work. In addition, Living Tree works with corporate clients, supplying Patagonia, Nike, and Mitsubishi, among others, with paper for their corporate letterheads, hang-tags, and other high-visibility uses.

While Living Tree helps other companies grow sustainably, they are also working to “walk the walk.” Living Tree recently acquired a biodiesel car, and 25 percent of Moran’s home and office energy needs are generated by wind power, a percentage Moran promises will only increase over time.

—Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist