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Need a Kleenex? You Won’t Find One at Rice University

By Kevin Moran (Houston Chronicle) - December 15, 2006

If you’re looking for a Kleenex on the Rice University campus in the near future, you’ll be out of luck.

Students at the highly rated university in Houston have convinced campus officials to quit buying Kleenex products in favor of products that include recycled material and exclude material from trees cut from North America’s largest ancient forest — the Boreal forest that stretches from Alaska through Canada.

“It was an initiative that students involved in various environmental groups started,” Kyle Saari, a sophomore earth science major at Rice, said today. “We simply showed our purchasing (department) that there are cheaper and environmentally superior products, so it was a no-brainer.”

A Rice spokesman said late today that the university has not officially “banned” the purchase of Kleenex or other products made by Kimberly-Clark.

Rice University Director of News and Media Affairs B.J. Almond said in an e-mail that the university “does not endorse products nor boycott them.”

Almond noted that less than 5 percent of Rice tissue purchases were Kimberly-Clark products. Almond said that Saari was not a spokesperson for the university, but confirmed that students had discussed their concerns with university officials.

“Some Rice students alerted our purchasing department about products that were cheaper and less harmful to the environment. Our purchasers substituted these products … but there is no official prohibition of buying Kimberly-Clark products for use on campus,” Almond said.

Saari said he and other studentst today delivered a 4-foot tall copy of a letter announcing the change in campus purchasing practices to Marc Shapiro, a Houston businessman who is a member of the boards of both Kleenex maker Kimberly-Clark and Rice University.

The oversize letter included the signature of about 40 Rice students, Saari said.

Kimberly-Clark is the target of several university campaigns, Saari said.

In April, American University in Washington, D.C., announced it would quit using Kimberly-Clark products and Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., sent a letter of concern to the company in November, he said.

In a prepared statement, Kimberly-Clark said that based on Canadian Forest Service data, its “global use of Boreal fiber represented just 4 percent of the pulp and 1.4 percent of all forest products (lumber, pulp, and newsprint) produced from the Boreal region in 2005.”

The Boreal forest comprises 25 percent of the planet’s remaining ancient forest, according to a news release from the environmental group Greenpeace issued today along with the Rice students’ announcement. The forest is as important to the planet as Amazon rain forests, Greenpeace maintained.

It takes roughly 90 years to grow many of the trees that Kimberly-Clark uses to make Kleenex tissues and Scott toilet paper, Greenpeace said.