Some of them are fine, like the one I get from Allegheny Power. It says on it: "This envelope manufactured from recyclable paper."
Some of them don't say anything at all, like the one from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland. I fear the worst, but I don't know.
I'm even more suspicious of the ones I get from Bell Atlantic or AmeriGas or the BMG Compact Disc Club. AmeriGas and BMG envelopes say: "Recyclable," while Bell Atlantic's says: "This product can be recycled."
I'd be a lot more comfortable if they'd come right out and say: "This product WILL be recycled," but they don't. They make me guess, and I'm afraid to admit that I don't give them the benefit of the doubt.
I wish they said what Wal-Mart does on its advertising flyers: "Printed in the USA on Recycled Paper Containing 60 percent Post Consumer Fiber." "Post Consumer" content is the best thing of all for recycled paper. It's not just leftover scrap paper; rather, it's paper that has been used and then returned and processed and reused.
Still, even Wal-Mart pales in comparison to the long-distance phone service called WALD (Working Assets Long Distance).
Their envelopes say: "Printed on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper with soy-based ink." Also, "Our bills are printed on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, and for every ton of paper we use we plant 17 trees. This year we contributed $50,000 to six tree-planting organizations working to replenish arboreal ecosystems in areas as diverse as rural Chiapas, Mexico and urban Oakland, California."
I'm impressed by that. But alas, I figured nobody except me really cared about this. So that's why I was extra happy to get a call from Lossman.
She had just received an advertisement in the mail from Bell Atlantic, and she was not happy about it. First of all, it didn't say if the paper was recycled, but that was just the start of it.
When she unfolded it, she found it was huge, almost poster-sized, measuring 17-by-26 inches on slick, glossy, heavy paper.
I'm sure Bell Atlantic wanted her to be impressed. But she wasn't. At least not the way they intended. To her it wasn't an attractive advertisement, but rather a colossal waste of paper.
She called Bell Atlantic to complain, but the woman she talked to just didn't get it. On the contrary, she sounded proud that Bell Atlantic "could afford" to do this kind of "eye-catching" promotion.
"Exactly what bothers you about it?" the woman asked her. To this, Lossman suggested that "as consumers WE are paying for this marketing and as a planet we are ALL paying for it."
Lossman sent me a copy of the brochure, because I didn't get one. At least I can be thankful for that.
But I have bad news for Lossman. At the end of the ad it says: "This is only the beginning. You'll be receiving more special offers and hearing more about Bell Atlantic Plus very soon."
Dennis Shaw is a former Herald-Mail editor. Write him at What Goes Around, P.O. Box 276, Clear Spring, Md. 21722, or call 301-842-3863.