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UMW continues to press for chlorine-free paper

Members of United Methodist Women meet with Office Depot executives, paper manufacturers and environmental group representatives in Florida. A UMNS photo courtesy of the Women's Division, Board of Global Ministries.










By Linda Bloom*
Nov. 14, 2006 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

Despite occasional setbacks, members of United Methodist Women are continuing to press companies to use and stock chlorine-free paper.

For the past year and a half, for example, UMW has used a letter-writing campaign to urge Office Depot, Office Max and Corporate Express to sell and use processed chlorine-free paper.


 Sung-ok Lee

Now, "after several hundred letters," Office Depot has agreed to carry PCF paper, according to Sung-ok Lee, an executive with the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The division is the parent organization of United Methodist Women. Lee and other UMW representatives met with Office Depot on Jan. 31 in Delray Beach, Fla.

Corporate Express provides paper to retail stores and stocked PCF paper for the UMW assembly in Anaheim, Calif., last May.

The UMW environmental campaign calls attention to the fact that chlorine bleaching produces dioxin, a toxin that has been linked to breast cancer, miscarriages and birth defects, impaired child development, respiratory diseases and diabetes. Bleaching paper with chlorine also uses 20 times more water than a chlorine-free alternative.

In addition to buying chlorine-free paper with a PCF or TCF label, UMW and the Women's Division suggest using alternatives to other chlorinated products that do not produce dioxin, avoid products with terms like "vinyl," "PVC" or "ballistic look," and recycling paper, plastics and metals.

At the division's annual meeting in October, directors added Wausau-Mosinee Paper Corporation and Yum! Brands Inc., to the letter-writing campaign. Wausau-Mosinee produces fine printing and writing paper, specialty products and towel and tissue papers. Yum! Brands Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., is the parent company of more than 34,000 restaurants - including Taco Bell - in more than 100 countries.

The letters from United Methodist Women notes that each company "is a trusted steward" and has a duty to make positive change. "A good steward needs an eye for sustainability and an understanding of the impact that the company has on natural resources such as water, air, energy, recycling, toxic releases of chlorine chemistry, human and animal health, greenhouse gas emissions and on social and economic accountability."

Previous campaigns for PCF paper with Kinko's and Staples met with limited success. Some Kinko's stores stock PCF paper for people using their copy machines, Lee reported, but said the chain was not consistent.

In 2004, UMW members visited more than 300 Staples stores across the country to see if they carried PCF paper and then sent a delegation to meet with Staples company executives in Framingham, Mass.

At that time, Staples agreed to work with UMW on educating store employees and communities around the nation on the dangers of chlorine, the dioxin it creates and the health effects of dioxins.

Since then, however, there has been a change in personnel, according to Lee, and the cooperative educational activities never occurred. Staples also stopped carrying the PCF paper after a trial period.

Still, UMW members realized from the Staples campaign that letter-writing is a "pretty powerful" tool for persuasion, Lee noted, and learned, during visits to the stores, how to have "a teaching moment where you can explain what you're trying to do."

The Women's Division's "Green Team" helps educate local churches about environmental concerns. Training for letter-writing campaigns occurs during leadership training for conference officers, at regional and conference schools of mission and at district training events. "It really becomes a collective action," Lee said.

One Green Team member, Karen Hewitson of Lake Carroll, Ill., represents the denomination's North Central Jurisdiction. While CPF paper and other conservation efforts are discussed, the jurisdiction has chosen "pure water" as its issue for 2006, she said.

"Everyone has been receptive to this message," said Hewitson, who speaks to school groups as well as church groups. "People are very concerned about their water and they want to know what they can do to conserve the water they have and make it better."

Water also ties in to chlorine processing and she passes along information about environmentally sound products as part of the education process. "When I've showed them the chlorine-free products, they're really excited about that," she added.

The United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, has called for "a dioxin-free future" since 1996, based on its serious health threat to the general U.S. population.

The denomination supports "a phase-out of the production of dioxin beginning with immediate action on the three largest sources of dioxin: incineration of chlorine-containing wastes, bleaching of pulp and paper with chlorine, and the entire life cycle of polyvinyl chloride (PCV) plastic."

More information about the Green Team and letter-writing campaigns can be found at, the UMW Web site.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or .

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