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"This business chose me," says Carolyn Moran, founder and president of Living Tree Paper. Yet it hardly seems accidental, given her buoyant spirit and "let's just do it" attitude about things she believes in.

"We're just starting to feel the glow of success now, but it was a struggle for many years," she adds. One major turning point was Earth Day 2002, when Staples, Inc, decided to carry Living Tree papers in over 1000 stores nationwide. "This was huge for us. Staples' program was a tremendous marketing advantage for the year they carried our papers on their shelves." Now Living Tree papers are still available in Staples' online store at

A second turning point that year was when actor Woody Harrelson became interested in the company. His influence with other artists has led to important contacts within the entertainment industry. "That has definitely helped our growth," Carolyn points out. "Musicians care about the environment and want our paper for their CD booklets." Already, Living Tree is providing the paper for inserts in CDs by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jackson Browne, Madonna and many others.

With help like this, Carolyn expects Living Tree's sales will increase by a multiple of 10, and the company moved from break-even to profitable in 2002.

A lifelong advocate of nature and living things, Carolyn moved back to the land in the 1970's, to a farm near a salmon spawning creek in Oregon's coastal mountains. "There were thousands of salmon spawning every year there," she remembers. Years later, when flying over Oregon, she saw massive clear-cutting, and wondered about the farm where she used to live. "I went back for a visit," she relates, "and learned they now have a fish count to track the few survivors. Deforestation decimated the salmon."

In the 1980's, Carolyn became a self-avowed radical in the forefront of the Deep Ecology movement. She did lots of speaking around the country, participated in direct action campaigns, and in 1989 founded Talking Leaves, a widely distributed pro-environmental magazine promoting sustainability.

Having seen clear-cutting up close, she resolved to publish the magazine on the most environmental paper she could find. When she heard of hemp paper and sustainably grown fibers, she thought, "I've got to do that." She tried importing hemp paper from China for Talking Leaves. But the quality was poor and "wreaked havoc with the presses."

By chance, she ran into Carolyn Garcia, of Grateful Dead fame, at a concert and mentioned her search for good quality tree-free fibers. Carolyn Garcia recommended her for a grant from The Rex Foundation, which at the time was using Grateful Dead concert proceeds to support a variety of environmental and other projects.

With the grant, Carolyn Moran toured Eastern Europe and the Ukraine looking for high quality non-wood specialty pulps. Upon returning to the U.S., she met Frank Riccio, co-founder of Danforth International Trade Associates, a supplier of specialty non-wood fibers and pulps, including industrial hemp, flax, and kenaf.

A specialist in the non-wood sector of the pulp and paper industry, Riccio encouraged Carolyn to start her own paper company and offered her technical assistance. She gave Talking Leaves magazine to Lost Valley Educational Center so she could spend the next two years getting her new business going. Living Tree Papers officially launched in 1996.

"It's all about saving trees," Carolyn explains. "No trees are clear-cut" to make Living Tree paper grades, which range from 50% to 90% postconsumer paper with 10% hemp or flax to add strength. In the 50% postconsumer line, the balance includes 20% preconsumer fiber and 20% sustainably harvested wood. The uncoated product lines are 100% processed chlorine free (PCF).

Living Tree is a combination supplier/manufacturer. The company imports hemp and flax pulp from Europe as well as some from North America, and contracts with mills in the eastern U.S. and Canada for production of post-consumer blends for Living Tree products.

"We do not compete with commodity grades like copy paper," Carolyn clarifies. "Our lines are coated and uncoated grades of printing and writing paper, in various basis weights for all types of printing." Staples online ( offers Living Tree paper for laser printing, with prices close to other comparable printing and writing papers. "If a person is shopping for copy paper, our prices will be too high," says Carolyn, "but we're about $6 per ream cheaper than high end cotton letterhead and very competitively priced with other laser printing papers."

Now Living Tree is tripling its business in other markets as well. For years, it has sold paper to prominent companies such as Nike, Mitsubishi, Warner Bros., and Patagonia for letterhead, hang tags, and other high visibility uses.

Carolyn says she has always pursued "an environmental vision of a new world." She believes consumer demand will support the growth of tree-free paper and ultimately transform this vision to reality.

Visit Living Tree's website.

- Gretchen Brewer
May 2003

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