Canopy executive director Nicole Rycroft stands next to straw bales at Columbia Pulp Mill in Washington. Rycroft photo For Nicole Rycroft, the first modern, tree-free commercial-scale pulp mill in North America was a “lightbulb moment” about the climate crisis. The new mill in eastern Washington state, called Columbia Pulp , runs entirely without woodchips. Instead, it makes pulp, for paper products like tissues and food containers, out of some of the hundreds of millions of tonnes of wheat straw that is left over after farmers harvest their grain. Rycroft, as the founder and executive director of Vancouver non-profit Canopy , has been advocating for new technologies that take advantage of agricultural residues, food waste or old clothing, and turns them into everyday products, without the need for trees. Her pitch is straightforward: climate scientists say conserving the world’s forests is key to slowing climate change, yet three billion trees per year currently go into paper packaging and another 200 million into clothing. Meanwhile, there are tonnes of alternative fibre sources destined for landfills or the burn pile that can be made useful again, even accounting for some left over to ensure the organic integrity of the soil. But convincing […]


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