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


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.