Hypepotamus | Pulp Fiction: TreeZero’s Tree-Free Paper Helps Offices Across the Country Go Green

A version of this article appeared in Hypepotamus.

Many organizations have realized the need for using and promoting recycled and sustainable materials — the Atlanta Tech Village has even committed to becoming 100 percent carbon neutral by 2035 with the help of emission offsets startup GreenPrint.

According to the World Resources Institute, more than 80 percent of the Earth’s natural forests have been destroyed already. A good portion of this is driven by the need for more stuff — including office supplies like paper. In fact, 40 percent of deforestation can be attributed to the paper industry.

Recycled paper is a first step — one pallet (40 boxes) of 30 percent recycled paper saves 7 trees. But one Atlanta company has stepped up with an even more innovative solution: North America’s only tree-free, carbon-neutral paper.

TreeZero‘s high-quality paper is made up of sugarcane waste fiber, a material that is usually burned or wasted in landfills. Manufacturing it emits 42 percent less CO2 emissions than manufacturing virgin paper, but to make up for any emissions, the team also purchases carbon credits to combat deforestation in Africa.

A pallet of TreeZero’s paper thus saves 24 trees. That’s right, three times as many as recycled.

“TreeZero paper turns an everyday product into an outstanding sustainable solution,” says TreeZero co-founder Mike Nilan. “We saw deforestation as a serious problem and wanted to make a difference for the future and for now. Through our research and world travels, we were looking for products that met our sustainability objectives.”

Nilan and co-founder Ed Kennedy founded the company in 2009, merging their backgrounds in consumer goods, product sourcing, entrepreneurship, and sales to scale the company quickly. The paper is now available nationwide in office supply stores like Office Depot, Staples, and almost 2,000 FedEx Office stores.

The local community supports the startup as well. Atlanta-area customers include Artlite, the CDC, Georgia Power, Ted’s Montana Grill, Emory University, and Georgia Tech.

“We disrupted a stagnant and established industry by introducing an innovative and sustainable paper product,” says Nilan. “We focus on innovation — in the way we have things made and the way we challenge the status quo.We’ve raised the standard of recycled paper set in the 1970’s.”

The company is funded through private investors, though the TreeZero team says they will soon seek additional institutional investors to fund their growth plans. They plan to hire and increase sales.

“We’ve had great business success, and we’re passionate about giving back to our community and preserving our environment for future generations including our own children and grandchildren,” says Nilan.

For this startup, the old saying goes double — money certainly does not grow on trees.

Photos via TreeZero.

The Green Guy | 07-02-2017- TreeZero and GO2LED

The Green Guy | 07-02-2017- TreeZero and GO2LED

A version of this interview originally aired on The Green Guy.

The Story

Recently, our CEO Mike Nilan and our EVP of Sustainability Jeff Foote joined The Green Guy show to sit down and discuss how TreeZero reinvented a consumer product we all use – paper.

Below is the recording along with a few excerpts from the interview. You can also find the entire conversation on the show’s website!


The Facts

  • Mike Nilan is Co-Founder and CEO of TreeZero, an Atlanta-based sustainable solutions company that markets, supplies and distributes agro-fiber paper and other environmentally responsible products for Fortune 2000 companies, colleges and universities, government agencies and consumers with a passion for sustainability.TreeZero’s flagship product TreeZero paper is the only premium, 100 percent tree free, carbon neutral paper made from sugarcane waste fiber. It is completely recyclable within existing recycling systems and compostable. According to Ricoh, TreeZero paper delivers excellent print quality when compared to regular recycled paper. TreeZero paper is available at major office supply distributors such as Office Depot/Office Max®, Ricoh Canada, Staples®, Veritiv™, Artlite and W.B. Mason, online at Amazon and in-store at FedEx® Office.Prior to founding TreeZero, Nilan was the CEO of an international sourcing company, The MarketSource, which focused on consumer goods for companies like Pepsi and Tropicana for eight years. Prior to The MarketSource’s success, Nilan served as the Founder, Chairman and CEO of One Coast Network, the largest wholesale gift and home accessory company in North America. To learn more about TreeZero, visit their website, and follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Jeff Foote was appointed Executive Vice President of Sustainability for TreeZero in 2017 to oversee the strategic direction of the company’s sustainability efforts. Foote is charged with marketing and distributing a revolutionary paper product that could potentially save millions of acres of trees each year, in addition to leading the company’s carbon neutrality project and developing the business’s relationships with major environmental groups. Foote previously worked at The Coca-Cola Company, where he was a distinguished sustainability leader for more than 20 years. During his time with Coca-Cola, Foote was an influential leader and conservation-minded executive who played a key role in developing world-class sustainability goals for the company. Foote’s leadership and accomplishments are felt within the local community and around the world. In his hometown of Atlanta, Foote currently serves on the board of the Georgia Recycling Coalition and has previously supported the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Task Force on Controlled Environment and the Green Spirit Farms of Georgia. In his quest for sustainability, he has traveled to all seven continents including Antarctica, where he led two leadership and teamwork expeditions to help inspire over 150 business leaders to reduce impacts on climate and to promote water stewardship. To learn more about TreeZero, visit their website, and follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.