Mature trees at Khan-na.
Thirawit Leetavorn

Copy paper manufacturer Double A leads the way in sustainability consumption, one tree at a time.

“DON’T waste paper. You’re killing trees.” At some point of our lives, we might hear this. It’s true that we need trees to make paper. With the rapid development of technology, specifically in printing, the demand for high quality paper is on the rise. The question is, will our Earth be treeless if we keep making paper?

Paper manufacturer Double A has the answer to this. The manufacturer, based in Prachinburi, Thailand, is getting to the root of the problem with its sustainability campaign-1Dream 1Tree. “We need paper that absorbs ink, otherwise you’ll get smudges. That’s what pushing us to produce high-quality paper. At Double A, we talk about ‘sustainability in action’ and the 1Dream1Tree programme is a strong proof-point of that,” explains Thirawit Leetavorn, the senior executive vice-president of Double A when we meet in Thailand. “The idea came to us about a year ago. We thought it would be great to raise awareness on sustainability and how easy it actually is. We want the consumers to be aware that we’re not cutting trees from natural forests,” adds Leethavorn.

The initiative, which has been rolled out in Singapore, Malaysia, Korea and Thailand is spearheaded by Double A ambassador — former model, MTV VJ and environmental advocate, Denise Keller.

Double A has since successfully revolutionised the industry with its Paper Tree from Khan-na (a vacant space between rice fields) owned by local farmers. The programme provides additional income to over 1.5 million farmers when they sell the sustainable fibre-source back to Double A. The copy paper giants found the value of these unused spaces and encouraged the farmers to utilise and bring out the real value out of this idle land.


Denise Keller, Thirawit Leetavorn and Boonyuen Lalitta sharing the joy with the schoolchildren.

QUALITY ABOVE ALL

The award-winning Paper Tree comes from a high and uniform quality tree species of eucalyptus — camaldunesis, grandis, urophylla and globulus — that has been developed over 32 years of committed research.

“We don’t just look at our yield, but also the quality of pulp. We have more pulp in one piece of paper for better distribution,” explains Leetavorn. Since GMO (genetically modified organism) is illegal in Thailand, Double A opts for a more conventional way of breeding the trees. Leetavorn adds: “We can’t take short cuts in our process. Although it’s taking us quite some time, we can always expect two to three good clones each year.”

The hybrid trees suit Thailand’s soil and climate, are easy to grow and don’t require much investment and attention. Based on a research done by the Kasetsat University (a university known widely in Thailand for its top notch research in agriculture), the trees aren’t harmful to other crops. There’s also no need to plant new seedlings as the trees can regenerate three times.

Double A’s state-of-the-art production facility also minimises water consumption all throughout and also recycles the water during the pulp bleaching process. Its operations only use 6-7 cubic metres of water per tonne of pulp. That is 90 per cent less water than the industry standard!


Double A’s state-of-the-art production facility minimises water consumption all throughout and also recycles the water during the pulp bleaching process.

GREEN IS KING

A lush green paddy field greets us as we disembark from our tour van. The sky is dark, but it brings a refreshing breeze. The paddy plants wave vigorously, producing a rather calming sound. Leetavorn, wearing a soft blue polo shirt and black slacks, is making his way to the paddy field with Keller running not far behind, trying to catch up.

An old Thai man wearing plaid and dark blue slacks greets us with a smile and slight bow, with the palms pressed together. His name is Virat, a rice farmer who earns extra income for his family by participating in the campaign.

“I’m getting the trees for free, and then you are going to buy back from me. That’s just a fantastic offer,” he says in Thai, translated by Leetavorn. He has his own ideal strategy of doing it too — a crop rotation.

We follow Virat to check out a plot of sweet potatoes which he recently harvested. They are still there on the ground, but next to them are newly-planted Double A trees. We then continue our journey to the nearby Khan-na where a row of matured trees of various sizes and barks stand tall in front of us. Dry eucalyptus leaves cover the ground around each tree. “Three trees can make one tonne of paper which is about 400 reams,” shares Leetavorn, which prompts a simultaneous “wow” from us.

We then head for Banklongchaorang, a village in Khao Mai Kaeo district. At the far end of the school field, a row of paper trees can be seen. The school headmaster, 54-year-old Boonyuen Lalitta, welcomes us. Two years ago, 42 pupils from this school, ranging from kids in kindergarten to those in sixth grade planted a whooping 1,500 trees for Double A. The earnings from the trees which were grown on the 0.77ha of land were used to channel funds back into the school’s development.


Denise Keller taking a photo with Virat, one of the farmers.

APT APP

“We could not survive without the farmers. If they don’t plant the trees for us, we’ll be out of business!” exclaims Leetavorn later that night during dinner. “All they have to do is make sure all the trees are grown nicely and we’ll buy them back at market prices. We are really helping each other here.” Consumers can actually be a part of the exercise and help as well. Leetavorn adds: “Since you’re going to use paper anyway, might as well you donate some trees.”

The 1Dream1Tree app can be downloaded on any smartphones. Through this initiative, (which will end in September), each ream of Double A 80 gsm paper will have a unique QR code on the packaging, which, when scanned, takes the consumer to a microsite and will activate the planting of a Double A Paper-Tree. An e-certificate will be sent upon registration. Consumers will also be notified of the location of where their tree has been planted. To date, there are more than 16,000 trees donated through the app with Malaysia being the highest donors so far (7,795 trees).

Asia, says Leetavorn, is now the biggest paper production in the world. “So we really need to be aware of the resources we’re using. If we’re not judicious in using these natural sources, we’re actually depleting them.”

His eyes light up as he continues: “I’m a great believer. I believe this campaign is empowering consumers to make the right decision. They must realise how simple sustainable consumption is. Although this campaign is only for three months, we’ll continue if we have enough trees, definitely.”

All paper manufacturers use the same machines from international companies. The only differences are in the way they source their raw material and how they market themselves. “For us, with our 1Dream 1Tree programme, we are taking it to the next level by involving the consumers. But if our competitors want to do the same thing, go ahead,” concludes Leetavorn with a smile.

If all paper manufacturers compete to do the same thing, the big winner is going to be Mother Earth.

Want to donate a tree? Details at www.1dream1tree.com