By Jeremy Say
Double A has launched their 1Dream1Tree (ODOT) initiative that will help spread awareness and promote environmental sustainability. Leading the charge with Double A is Denise Keller, a prominent host, model, and environmental advocate, who will help raise awareness concerning the well being of the environment and sustainability. This ODOT initiative will be active in four different markets in Asia – Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Korea. Check the site http://www.1dream1tree.com/ so you can see this wonderful initiative in action and for more information. You might as well drop by http://www.facebook.com/DoubleA.Malaysia as well to check out all the great things they are doing.
Double A has already changed the industry with their innovative KHAN-NA practice that has greatly benefited many people. The practice of using vacant spaces between the rice fields of local farmers in Thailand can only be described as efficient and innovative.
Somewhere around the order of 1.5 million farmers participate in the KHAN-NA practice and not only help with environmental sustainability, but get additional income when they sell the trees back to Double A.
Over the next three months you too can join the cause. You will be able to participate by scanning the unique QR code found on a ream of Double A 80 gsm paper. When scanned, you will be sent to a microsite which will begin the planting a Double A Paper-Tree – One of which you helped plant and can even track its GPS coordinates as well as its growth.
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn, Senior Executive Vice President of Double A has much to say about the company and his belief of sustainability in action when it comes to making positive impacts on the environment.
Here is an interview conducted with Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn at the Biji-Biji Initiative creative workshop. We were able to talk a bit more into the details of how everything started; the process of manufacturing paper; and its effects on the community and the environment.
Jeremy Say: Double A is making many initiatives to promote sustainability, How did the 1Dream1Tree initiative come about?
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: There was a realization that consumer weren’t really involved in spreading the message of sustainability consumption. A lot of conferences I held, are attended by professional and academics in the areas themselves. While what goes on in their fields is very good, the impact they can have on society is limited by the activities they do.
With a consumer marketing background that I have, I thought that there has to be a better way to get consumers involved. A message we try to take to the consumers is a simple one- you actually have the power to force some changes in production methods today.
Jeremy Say: The company uses the KHAN-NA approach for a sustainable source for materials, is this your only source of materials?
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: The key thing about running any factory or large facility,it runs 24 hours 7 days a week. Most of the paper that we produce uses the trees from the KHAN-NA project, but we always have a small cache which is held in reserve. Certain occurrences such as the heavy rain seasons that you have in Thailand make it difficult to carry out logistics. So we tap into our reserves which is a managed forest during those times.
Jeremy Say: With the managed forest, I assume you conduct studies on the ecology and life studies.
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: Yes we do. One thing that needs to be made clear when you say managed forests, it’s not a forest per say that you go into manage. It’s a piece of land that use to be farming area, and instead of farming one of the cash crops you just change it to a reserve area to farm the trees. So it’s different than managing a reforestation project and working off of that type of concession,
Jeremy Say: The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) promotes Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) through independent third-party certification. What do they advise you on and role do they play in 1Dream1Tree?
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: PEFC is our technical advisor in the 1Dream1Tree Project. They comes in too oversee our management reporting systems.
For instance, for a farmer to qualify he has to show proof that he owns the land. That it is farmland, that is has always been farmland, and he grows rice as his main crop. Through the 1Dream1Tree program we donate saplings to the farmers to plant.
So when the farmer plants them we will immediately register his farm on our GPS tracking system and in the database. We are then able to see the titled deed and have the farmer’s national identity card do we know that it comes froms a legal source. So PEFC ensures this is a transparent system and comes in and does audits.
Jeremy Say: So what makes Double A trees so special?
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: For the Double A tree we did a lot of research before we started our pulp and paper facility. Typically we were looking for a tree that would give us a high fiber content to make paper. A typical eucalyptus tree would yield something in the region of 30 to 40 percent fibre, while the Double A tree yields about 50%.
We wanted to find a natural way to increase that fiber content and allow the trees to grow and mature faster than the normal 7 year cycle. Quite fortunately we were able to achieve this aim. So the trees we have today that the farms are growing actually mature within 4 years.
This is important for the farmers. If you have a 7 or a 10 year time cycle sometimes the farmer may only see one or two crops – that’s it! When you have a 4 year time frame than the farmer can say – Hey, that’s not so far off. So the trees becomes more of a cash crop to them. Farmers then become more ready and willing to participate in the program.
So that’s one aspect of the tree that is special to Double A. As I mention the fiber content of these trees we able to get about 50% fiber content out of them and the other half of the tree is then taken off to burn as fuel to generate electricity.
Jeremy Say: Talking about fiber for making paper, do you ever use recyclable materials to supplement the paper?
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: It is all virgin fiber that we use to make the Double A paper.
Jeremy Say: Talking about the plant itself, you said you burn the extra materials for electricity. I assume you have surplus? What do you do with it?
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: By law you have to sell that back onto the electricity grid.
The beauty of setting up a pulp and paper mill in a province outside of Bangkok, which use to have to get power through a whole lot of transmission lines is we can supply some of it. The mill is able to produce about 100 MW. The mill itself uses only 30 MW. The rest is sold back to the electricity authority and will power the community that lives around there.
So 70 MW is able to power about 400 thousand households in that area.
Jeremy Say: May I ask how you treat the wastewater from the plant?
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: Water is one of the major inputs into our paper mill. There is a couple of things that work in our favor. One is that we have our own water reservoir. We design it that way so that we wouldn’t have to draw on the river or artesian well water and the area we are located has some of the heaviest rainfalls. So we get a natural supply of water every year from the rain that comes down.
The technology we use for the pulp mill itself, uses only 6 cubic meters of water to produce one ton of paper. Once that water is used in the pulping process it’s recycled. So you take the water out and we -for want of a better word- clean the water itself. It goes through the normal process of water treatment. The water then is recycled into our production process once again.
So even though we have this 36 million cubic meter reservoir, we use very little of the water ourselves. That enables us to make this water available for the community in and around the paper mill. The water treatment standard that we use are based on Scandinavian Standards – a leaders in water treatment and our environmental authority in Thailand strictly measures the solids and contents of the water we use. As a matter of fact we are actually online with the EPA so they can actually see the water level and quality that is treated at our mill.
Jeremy Say: It is very good for the local community that you provide so much. Electricity, clean water,and even jobs.
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: I think that is very important, because once you move a large industry into this community you need to integrate yourself with the community. There is more than just employment benefits.
For instance if you lived in a community that use to have fresh air and water which all of a sudden hasn’t got fresh air and drinkable water you’re going to die off – no matter how money you inject into the community. So this was a main consideration that we were concerned with when we set up the paper mill.
Jeremy Say: How did you come to work with and know of the Biji-biji Initiative?
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: We are always open to work with anybody who is interested in promoting sustainable habits. Biji-Biji just happened to be one of these organizations. As you see from the workshop that we went through today, we put a lot of effort into that and learn a few things which was good. They also doing good things with recycling materials and repurposing them.
From these small beginnings if we can make a positive impact we hope to grow consumer awareness. To hopefully influence consumers’ behaviour to choose the right product and to make considered decisions before you buy anything.
Jeremy Say: What are your thoughts on how society has treated paper and this new paperless initiative that companies and campuses have been adopting.
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: I don’t think you will ever have a truly paperless office. I’ve since changed my opinion, when people say to me that people are using less paper, I tell to them that people are using paper more efficiently.
When I first started working, the first thing you got when you got into your job is your pens, a notepad, maybe a ruler, and then you got your in-tray. That in-tray use to be stack filled with papers. Today instead we get emails and we print out copies that are important to us.
The same can be said about printing technology. Nowadays it is easier to get your first prints right even on a mass scale when it comes to newspapers or catalogues.
Jeremy Say: I believe that is all the questions I have about 1Dream1Tree and Double A. Do you have any messages for our millennial readers?
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: The 1Dream1Tree program is essentially a digital run program that uses social media. One of the things that really impressed me is the fact that over 80% of the consumers who participated in this were between the 18-30 year old age group.
It is important to get the youth involved and contribute their efforts and energy. So it was very positive seeing the result from our program. That people are become involved and I would encourage them to do more.
Jeremy Say: When you say encourage them to do more, what kind of things would be a step in the right direction?
Mr. Thirawit Leetavorn: You don’t have to do much to positively impact your carbon footprint. One is be aware where your product comes from, how it’s made and it’s very easy to find out these days. You can google search to see the process of manufacturing and make your purchase decision based on what you find – always stay informed.
Even the way you dress for the climate makes a difference. These small things all count, so never discount the fact that every little bit helps.