Mulling at Work | 09-25-17 Mike Nilan and Jeff Foote with TreeZero

Mulling at Work | 09-25-17 Mike Nilan and Jeff Foote with TreeZero

A version of this interview originally aired on Mulling at Work


The Story

Recently, our CEO and co-founder, Mike Nilan along with Jeff Foote, our SVP, Sustainablity joined Emory Mulling on his Mulling at Work radio show discuss TreeZero’s mission along with the advantages of working for a “green” company. 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 Highlights

Emory Mulling: What motivates someone to work for a conservation-minded company?

  • MIKE: We have a common value in our company.  We stress fiscal responsibility and sustainability responsbility. It permeates our entire company.

Emory Mulling: As a company with a sustainability focus, what is your approach to managing people? Is it different than managing a company which is not a sustainability-focused company?

  • JEFF: The way you manage people is really important.  It really shouldn’t differ whether you’re a sustainable company or not.

 

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.

VoyageATL | Meet Mike Nilan and Craig Ramsey of TreeZero

A version of this article appeared in VoyageATL

Craig Ramsey, President and Mike Nilan, CEO and co-founder of TreeZero

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Nilan and Craig Ramsey.

Mike and Craig, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Before founding TreeZero, I was traveling the world, sourcing ideas for sustainable products. As an avid environmentalist and a father of five sons, I was looking for something that would benefit generations to come. I wanted a business with a higher purpose.

I found that purpose in a premium, multipurpose paper that’s tree free, carbon neutral and made entirely from sugarcane waste. I was intrigued, because like most people I had never heard of making paper from sugar cane or more specifically bagasse – the fibrous residue left over after the sugar cane has been processed and the sugar extracted. The bagasse is fibrous, very much like wood pulp, and it can be processed into paper.

I discovered this process while traveling in China, and the idea for TreeZero began to take root. The paper production plant in their country used tree fibers in combination with the sugarcane waste. But I knew the process could be improved. The difficult part was finding a sugarcane field and refinery in close proximity to a paper mill. I found that in Colombia, which is where TreeZero’s paper is manufactured today – completely tree free. I can confidently say that our multipurpose copy paper is one of the most innovative and sustainable products to emerge in the paper industry since recycled paper was introduced nearly 50 years ago.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
There certainly have been challenges, but that’s to be expected when you’re trying to disrupt a stagnant industry. We didn’t get into the tree free paper business because we thought it was going to be easy. We did it because we wanted to make a make a difference for the future – and now.

Breaking through the status quo, communicating our value proposition and raising brand awareness were early-stage challenges, but we’ve worked to achieve rapid interest and widespread adoption in a short period of time. Today’s consumers place more importance on sustainably made products – from food and apparel to home goods and office supplies. They’re paying attention to what companies are doing and they’re purchasing products that stand for something. This mindset shift has greatly contributed to our success.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the TreeZero story. Tell us more about the business.
TreeZero is an Atlanta-based company that markets, supplies and distributes agro-fiber paper and other environmentally responsible products to companies, colleges and universities, government agencies and consumers. We’re best known for our flagship product: multipurpose copy paper made from a sugarcane waste byproduct, which is typically burned or landfilled.

We’re proud of what we’re doing because we’re moving the needle from good to great in everything that we do – helping organizations recognize that every business decision is a sustainability decision.

TreeZero paper benefits the environment by combatting deforestation, offsetting carbon emissions and helping reduce climate change. Earlier this year, we became carbon neutral by partnering with Wildlife Works, an organization that funds conservation efforts in Africa. Through Wildlife Works, we have retroactively purchased carbon offsets for every single ream of paper produced and sold since our inception – and we’ve made the same commitment for all future sales.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
We can confidently say that the success of our company is not by luck, but because of the talented and driven individuals that make up the TreeZero team. We have a diverse group of professionals from a variety of backgrounds including business consulting, sustainability and sales and marketing.

Jeff Foote, EVP, Sustainability for TreeZero

For example, our SVP of Sustainability Jeff Foote spent 20 years overseeing sustainability initiatives at The Coca-Cola Company. Coming from a Fortune 100 company, he brings an elevated perspective to our business, whether it’s managing TreeZero’s relationships with environmental groups, leading our carbon neutrality program or contributing thought leadership content on our corporate blog.

And it’s not just our team that’s instrumental to our success – we also have an amazing group of advisers and investors who believe in our mission and in the importance of sustainability.

 

 

 

Contact Info:

Photos via TreeZero.

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.

Business RadioX | Mike Nilan and Craig Ramsey with TreeZero and Paula Munger with NAA

Business RadioX | Mike Nilan and Craig Ramsey with TreeZero and Paula Munger with NAA

A version of this interview originally aired on Business RadioX.


The Story

Recently, our CEO Mike Nilan and our President Craig Ramsey joined Business Radio X’s High Velocity show to sit down and discuss TreeZero’s origins, its partnership with Wildlife Works and insights the company’s plans for the future.

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 Highlights

Business Radio X: What was it like marketing this product early on? Was the idea embraced? Were you laughed at?

  • MIKE: The last paper introduction to the office supply business was in the mid-‘70s, when recycled paper was introduced – that was the last innovation. So, when we came with a 100 percent tree free, carbon neutral paper, they embraced us. Because now they have something new to bring to their customers, and now they have a sustainable paper they can bring to their sustainable customers that can move the needle for them as well.

BRX: Now that you have access to a larger distribution, does that mean you’re done?

  • CRAIG: Oh no, we’re just getting started. What the TreeZero team has done so far that has been incredible is one-on-one calls with customers – making them aware and bringing them on board. Now that we have that, we’re also going to introducing new products that have the same core material, and are also carbon neutral.
  • MIKE: Really, anything you see in an office that is made from paper – notepads, composition books, calendars, ledgers – they can all be manufactured with our tree free, carbon natural paper. After that we’re going to go into commercial printing, as well as the food industry, where we’ll have the only tree free and carbon neutral plates, cups, trays and napkins. on the market. So we have a lot of new products to follow our copy paper, and most of them have been developed already.

BRX: How do you market your paper to customers?

  • CRAIG: What we’ve found is that sustainability is not a program, it’s not a project, it’s not a trend – it’s here to stay. And so buying our paper is one of the easiest decisions a company, university or government agency can make, because it’s a commodity product they know they’re going to be using, it’s great for the environment and its carbon neutral.
  • MIKE: And it’s affordable!

BRX: Can you talk a little about your partnership with Wildlife Works?

  • MIKE: Manufacturing our paper emits about 42 percent less CO2 emissions versus virgin paper, but there is some carbon output. So to make up for this, we buy our carbon credits through Wildlife Works. And we don’t just buy credits just to buy them. We buy credits that affect the very serious deforestation issues in the Congo and in Kenya, and we also impact the local communities through protecting wild animals, as well as helping the local impoverished communities. So it’s a full circle model, and we do it for the prime purpose of protecting the forest.

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.
  • Craig Ramsey was appointed President of TreeZero in 2016, assuming leadership of the company’s entire value chain.  Prior to joining TreeZero, Ramsey spent over 30 years with Accenture where he was a member of the North America leadership team and headed the Atlanta office – one of the largest Accenture offices in the world during the last ten years of his tenure with Accenture. From there, he oversaw business development and client service for the company’s southeastern region and was a leader in market growth, corporate citizenship and community involvement.Craig has a Bachelor of Science (finance and risk management) and MBA from Florida State University. He has lived in Atlanta since 1982 with his wife and their four children. To learn more about TreeZero, visit their website, and follow them on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Paula Munger is Director of Industry Research and Analysis at the National Apartment Association. In Paula’s role at NAA she has established an active NAA research program, to include leading research efforts on topics of importance to the industry and the association, implementing and managing specific research projects, and providing insight in government and other relevant data impacting apartments.Paula has previous experience at Cushman & Wakefield, The Federal Reserve and is a graduate of New York College at Buffalo. Find out more about NAA on their website, and connect with them on Twitter and Facebook. You can also connect with Paula on LinkedIn.

 

Southeast Green | TreeZero Partners with Wildlife Works to Protect Threatened Forests in Africa

Southeast Green | TreeZero Partners with Wildlife Works to Protect Threatened Forests in Africa

Partnership Expands Commitment to Innovation and Sustainability

A version of this article appeared in Southeast Green.

TreeZero, a sustainable paper company, has announced a partnership with Wildlife Works to support the preservation of threatened forests in Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Additionally, the partnership has enabled TreeZero to become carbon neutral and offset its product carbon emissions.

“Our partnership with Wildlife Works joins two organizations focused on innovative solutions to conserve the world’s biodiversity,” said Mike Nilan, CEO of TreeZero. “We care about the world we live in, and we have products made in a way that positively impacts the environment today – and for generations to come.”

TreeZero’s premium, multipurpose paper is made from sugarcane fiber waste that is 100 percent tree free. The company achieved carbon neutrality for its paper by offsetting the carbon emissions generated from producing and processing the sugarcane, and manufacturing, distributing and recycling the paper. TreeZero has retroactively purchased verified emission reductions (VERs), also known as carbon offsets, for every single ream of paper produced and sold since the inception of the company – and has made the commitment to continue to purchase carbon offsets for future sales.

Wildlife Works is the world’s leading REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) project development and management company. REDD+ is a climate change mitigation strategy envisioned by The United Nations to stop the deforestation responsible for pumping more than 7 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions into the atmosphere each year and accounting for 15 percent of global annual greenhouse gas emissions – more than the entire worldwide transportation sector.

“By creating value for standing trees through partnerships with organizations such as TreeZero, we’re able to fund our conservation efforts in Africa to protect forests and the wildlife that live in them,” said Mike Korchinsky, founder and president of Wildlife Works. “With TreeZero and other progressive corporations, we’re protecting 1.2 million acres of forests and preventing more than 5.4M tonnes of C02 emissions from being released each year for the 30-year life of the project. We’re also bringing sustainable development benefits to more than 200,000 local people who live in the forest area, in addition to protecting habitat for more than 300 species of wildlife.”

Approximately 300 million tons of paper is consumed worldwide each year.[1] According to the World Resources Institute, more than 80 percent of the Earth’s natural forests have been destroyed with 40 percent of deforestation driven by the paper industry.

“TreeZero is providing an alternative to paper production for those who want top quality paper and have a desire to move the needle on deforestation,’” said Nilan. “At the same time, we challenge others to go beyond conventional thinking to create solutions that further the circular economy.”

Nilan and Korchinsky are on the “Business for Sustainable Solutions” panel at The Rethinking Animals Summit in New York, May 6 and 7. They will discuss the TreeZero and Wildlife Works partnership and illustrate ways businesses can be profitable while protecting the environment and biodiversity.

Atlanta Magazine | Atlanta-based TreeZero produces tree-free paper

Atlanta Magazine | Atlanta-based TreeZero produces tree-free paper

The product is created from a sugercane-processing byproduct

A version of this article appeared in Atlanta Magazine.

Michael Nilan has never been one to overlook a great idea. In 2010, while on a business trip to China, the entrepreneur stumbled across a plant that produced paper without using a single tree. Inspired, Nilan shuttered his old business, which outsourced jobs for American companies like Tropicana and Westinghouse, and cofounded Atlanta-based TreeZero, which produces and distributes tree-free paper to both consumers and organizations. Its customers include Aflac and the CDC.

After discovering quality-control issues at the China plant, Nilan and his partner Ed Kennedy located another mill in South America, but its formula included 5 percent pine—a problem for a company already incorporated as TreeZero. No matter: The pair worked with engineers to eliminate pine from the equation before signing an exclusive contract with the mill.

TreeZero makes high-quality paper from a sugarcane-processing byproduct that is typically dumped in a landfill or incinerated. The production process is not just ecofriendly—it actually helps the environment.

The paper industry, including local giant Georgia-Pacific, has long presented recycled paper as ecofriendly. But according to Nilan, TreeZero performs better—leaving less dust in printers and absorbing ink crisply—because it has never been remanufactured.

This article originally appeared in our November 2014 issue under the headline “Sweet”

Atlanta Business Chronicle | Tree-free paper company exec fills demand

Atlanta Business Chronicle | Tree-free paper company exec fills demand

A version of this article appeared in Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Paper comes from trees. That is a fact people learn early in life. Michael Nilan is working to change that.

A self-proclaimed “tree hugger,” Nilan has created TreeZero Paper Co., an Atlanta-based company that produces and distributes sustainable 100 percent tree-free paper solutions to the office supply, printing and packaging industries. Instead of trees, the paper is made from sugar cane waste product.

“This is the ideal way to produce paper. Clearly, we have the most sustainable paper product in the world,” Nilan said. “Our goal is to become the leading provider of sustainable paper products all made from sugar cane waste.”

TreeZero was founded in 2009 to address the growing need for environmentally sustainable practices in the paper industry.

“I am a businessman and entrepreneur along with being someone who cares about the environment,” he said. “My partner, Ed Kennedy, and I were doing a project in China and we found a paper made from sugar cane and bamboo. … Copy paper and packaging paper is a high-volume and high-velocity product so we knew it would make a big impact.”

But the men ran into quality problems with the product so they continued their quest to find a tree-free product. That led them to South America, where they found a mill manufacturing paper from 95 percent sugar cane and 5 percent pine.

“But we had already named the company TreeZero so that 5 percent pine presented a problem,” Nilan said. “We worked with engineers to remove the pine and ended up with a product that works in manufacturers’ machines and is consistently a better quality than recycled paper. And because recycled paper has been so heavily processed, our product is actually easier on copy machines. We believe this can save millions in copy machines maintenance fees.”

TreeZero’s copy paper is being sold to FedEx, Staples, Office Depot, Emory University and other entities that have a sustainability initiative.

Individuals can purchase TreeZero through Amazon.com.

Mother Nature Network | Review: Tree-free copy paper

Mother Nature Network | Review: Tree-free copy paper

TreeZero’s copy paper is made without any tree products.

A version of this article appeared in Mother Nature Network.

Although you may know how to reduce paper waste in your office through double-sided printing and other measures, there is yet another way to save the trees — tree-free copy paper. Yes, that’s right, tree-free copy paper.

No tree-based wood fibers are used to create the product, instead the paper is made completely from sugar cane fibers.  You can recycle TreeZero paper with the rest of your paper products, but you have another recycling option due to the product’s 100 percent sugar cane base — composting. The product is compostable, so once you’re done with the paper simply put it in your compost bin and you’re done!

Deforestation has been a concern for decades and despite educational campaigns, it remains an issue today. TreeZero is proud to say that no trees have been harmed in making their product. While sugar cane is a renewable source and it can be harvested twice a year, TreeZero does not harvest sugar cane for paper production. Instead, the company uses sugar cane byproducts to make its ISO 9001 certified paper.

My family was able to test this sugar cane paper throughout the month of October, and here’s what we thought:

Pros:

  • Tree-free: This was particularly interesting to my tree-loving children.
  • Compostable: The ability to put the paper in the compost bin instead of setting it aside for recycling is extremely convenient.
  • Texture: I’m a fan of the texture of this paper. While traditional copy paper is slick there is a noticeable texture to this paper, which makes it easier to handle, especially when working with multiple sheets at one time.
  • Standards: The paper is the standard 8.5 x 11 in size with a 20-pound weight. This is perfect for printers, copiers and paper-based fax machines. My inkjet printer readily accepted the paper because it is the standard size and weight of traditional copy paper.