Conservatree has a long and dynamic history,
first as a paper distribution company from 1976-1997, and now as
today's nonprofit organization dedicated
to developing the tools, strategies and collaborations needed to transform paper markets to environmentally sustainable products. Meet the people
behind Conservatree. Find out about our current projects.
See also our list of funders.
Our unique combination of paper industry experience and environmental
leadership allows us to offer highly-focused consulting
services to businesses, governments, organizations, and others.
We can walk purchasers through the process of choosing and converting to
environmental papers while maximizing value and working within their
constraints. And, since we don't sell paper, they get the best,
most unbiased information and recommendations possible. We also are known for our ground-breaking research projects, speeches, and presentations.
Looking for specific topics or particular information? Get an overall
view of our extensive website at our Site
Who Is Conservatree?
Conservatree is a nonprofit catalyst and advocate for ecologically
sustainable paper markets, combining environmental commitment with
paper industry and technical savvy. We provide practical tools and
realistic strategies for successful conversion to environmentally
sound papers, including:
- Information for paper buyers and specifiers
on environmental papers that meet their needs
- Answers to concerns and myths that create
resistance to environmental papers
- Strategies for source reduction, to reduce
paper use as well as costs
- Tactics for addressing cost premiums,
when they exist
- One-on-one assistance in implementing
a shift from policy to solid change
- Collaboration with advocacy campaigns
to provide the expertise required to ensure that policy commitments
turn into actual conversion to environmental papers
- Education and recommendations for policymakers
- Research into environmental paper industry
- And, of course, much more!
Conservatree began in 1976 as the privately-owned, for-profit Conservatree
Paper Company. Its founder and president, Alan Davis, wanted to
develop a business solution to a cluster of environmental problems
(including wasted resources, unnecessary pollution, and poor solid
waste choices). At the time, there were virtually no identifiable
recycled papers available for commercial uses. Davis jump-started
the market for recycled printing and writing papers by developing
a national paper distributorship dedicated to identifying and developing
recycled papers and making them available to major buyers for the
For more than 20 years, it pushed the technical and environmental
development of recycled papers, while also developing supply and
markets in a highly competitive industry. Although it never owned
a paper mill, the company partnered with several mills to develop
recycled papers to rigorous quality and environmental specifications,
which it then introduced to eager corporate, government and organizational
buyers. In fact, the recycled version of most grades of fine papers
was first introduced by Conservatree, including the first recycled
copier paper and first recycled 25% cotton bond.
Conservatree was also one of the most trusted sources for information
about recycled papers in the country. It championed requirements
for meaningful definitions, especially "postconsumer,"
that would tie into and enhance development of the larger recycling
system. It also pushed development of significant content standards
and sensible labeling, as well as researched related environmental
issues such as deinking and toxic inks. Susan Kinsella launched
Conservatree's first nationally distributed newsletter, ESP News,
in 1988. David Assmann later took over as editor and publisher.
For most of the 1980s, Conservatree was the only national source
for large-quantity recycled papers. In 1989, it began training traditional
paper merchants around the country in how to discuss and sell recycled
papers and gave them access to Conservatree's private label lines.
In 1992, with recycled paper easily available and more cost-competitive
through local paper distributors, Conservatree started scaling back
its paper sales division, and closed it in 1994, having achieved
its goal of making recycled paper widely available.
By this time, chlorine free papers and tree free papers were beginning
to appear, so Conservatree continued its Information Services by
launching a new, highly-regarded newsletter, Conservatree's Greenline.
This new newsletter reported in-depth information on the whole range
of environmental papers as well as source reduction strategies.
It focused on all aspects of industry and ecological issues that
affected developing markets for more environmentally sound papers.
Conservatree's Greenline continued for three years, until,
on December 29, 1997, Alan Davis closed the company completely.
Today's Nonprofit Conservatree
As editor of Conservatree's Greenline, and previously in
public policy and advocacy positions with both Conservatree (1985-1990)
and Californians Against Waste Foundation (1990-1994), Susan Kinsella
covered developments and changes in markets for recycled, tree free
and chlorine free papers. She saw the exhilaration of a dozen new
high grade deinking mills opening in the mid-1990s, and the shock
and distress when market and technological forces caused most of
them to quickly close or operate severely below projections. She
saw the excitement build about new tree free papers and the steady
increase in awareness about the importance of chlorine free bleaching
processes. She saw growing demand for identification of papers made
without old growth timber fibers. She also saw the disintegration
of the recycled paper markets, now that there was no national voice
and source such as Conservatree, and misinformation and dis-information
was becoming rampant.
So when the company closed completely in 1997, she recognized that
the need was greater than ever for an experienced advocate and trusted
source providing information, guidance, strategies and technical
assistance in converting paper use to environmental options. In
particular, many government and environmental advocacy campaigns
were crumbling without the credible, easy-to-understand technical
and strategic answers that Conservatree could provide to purchasers'
and activists' questions.
Together with Gerard Gleason (who had paper sales experience through
Conservatree and Dancing Tree, a print and paper broker), she converted
the information and advocacy mission of Conservatree into a nonprofit
dedicated to creating the tools, tactics, information and networks
necessary to spur the continued development and market expansion
of ecologically sound papers.
Today's nonprofit Conservatree is dedicated to providing the technical,
strategic, and informational tools, as well as implementation assistance,
necessary for paper buyers to convert to environmental papers. Purchasing
demand from the bottom up built a 10% recycled paper share of the
paper markets in the early 1990s, creating responses from the paper
industry that included new and higher environmental content papers
from almost every paper manufacturer, top-notch quality, a tracking
system for postconsumer wastepaper among paperstock dealers and
mills, new deinking mills, and lower prices. With these now in place
and new opportunities such as renewed interest and commitment from
the federal government and major corporations, environmental papers
are again in a favorable position to take off and continue increasing
We welcome and actively pursue collaboration with advocacy campaigns
promoting the use of environmental papers, as well as businesses
that provide them.
Conservatree can provide the information and implementation expertise
necessary for successfully meeting environmental paper purchasing
goals for advocacy campaigns by governments, environmental and medical
health organizations, and others. In turn, advocacy campaigns can
motivate many different constituencies, amplifying the reach and
impact of our extensive knowledge about environmental papers.
Some of Conservatree's projects include:
- Building and maintaining extensive website listings of all the environmental papers available to purchasers in the U.S. and Canada.
- Initiated founding of the Environmental Paper Network, an international collaboration of environmental groups dedicated to transforming the paper industry to environmental sustainability.
- Co-authored the Single Stream Recycling Best Practices Manual (with Richard Gertman, Environmental Planning Consultants), to raise awareness among recyclers of the critical need to design recycling programs that meet manufacturers' requirement for quality feedstocks.
- Authored Global Markets for Chain-of-Custody Certified Papers: Strategic Five-Year Forecasts, for PIRA International, Surrey, UK.
- Hired as an advisor to Forest Stewardship Council-International to help integrate recycled content criteria into their certification program.
- Co-founder of the Magazine PAPER
Project, dedicated to converting magazine publishing to environmental
options. Green America now manages this project.
- Director of the Listening
Study, discussions about some of the most contentious
environmental paper iissues, with a focus on listening to all
sides of each debate and finding ways to resolve the conflicts.
- Advisor to the Green
Press Initiative, a program helping authors and publishers
switch their books to environmental papers.
We are most grateful for support from the following generous donors,
including those that contributed to Conservatree's work through
joint grants to our project partners:
Bank of America Foundation
The Columbia Foundation
The Educational Foundation of America
The Martin Fabert Foundation
The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation
The David B. Gold Foundation
The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund
The Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation
The Merck Family Fund
The Overbrook Foundation
The San Francisco Foundation
The Town Creek Foundation
The Turner Foundation
Trillium Web Works
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
The Wallace Global Fund
The Weeden Foundation
The Whole Systems Foundation