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So, "Where America Shops," Trees Are Dying?

Monday, 17 Dec 2007 | 3:11 PM ET

I haven't leafed through a catalog all year. In fact, catalogs go straight from my mailbox to the recycle trash bin. Take away the catalogs and the other junk mail I ignore, and I'd blissfully have nearly no mail at all. Just a few bills from those who haven't figured out how to charge me over the internet (eventually they'll figure that out and I won't have to trudge to the mailbox anymore).

The only time of year I get anything in the mail I want is now, when I receive Christmas cards. But even those are starting to taper off. Hmmm...

But I was talking about catalogs.

A group called Forest Ethics is grading companies based on how tree-friendly their catalogs are. The report carries the headline "Rudolph pleads for Donner and Blitzen's Future, Catalog Industry Continues to Threaten Caribou Habitat and Other Endangered Forests." Why does Rudolph just care about Donner and Blitzen? Maybe they were in favor of letting him play reindeer games.

Forest Ethics has put out a "Naughty and Nice" list which praises companies like Patagonia,Dell, and Victoria's Secret for using recycled paper and reducing overall paper usage in their catalogs (it takes credit for pressuring Victoria's Secret to change its ways with last year's "Victoria's Dirty Secret" campaign). But in the "Naughty" pile is Neiman Marcus,Talbots,Eddie Bauer,Office Max, Lands' End, The Sharper Image,School Specialty,Spiegel, and especially Sears. Apparently "where America shops" is also where trees die.

Forest Ethics says Sears sends out 425 million catalogs a year--that's more than a million a day--using very little recycled paper, and much of the paper comes from threatened forests where reindeer live. Sears responded by telling the Montreal Gazette its paper is "carefully selected to be able to address both our business needs and a responsible approach to reforestation."

By the way, Forest Ethics claims retailers send out 20 billion catalogs a year, and that the average American spends eight months of his or her life opening junk mail. I want those eight months back.

AN ECO-FRIENDLY HANG-UP ON HANGERS
I reported in my "Dry Cleaner Economic Index" that there is no longer any domestic hanger production in America! I should have been more specific...no more domestic WIRE hanger production. There is a homegrown hanger company which makes hangers out of recycled paper and sells ad space on them. Eco-Hangers.

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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