“Selling False Information”


More than 40 UVM students gathered at the Catamount statue last Wednesday to walk downtown and rally outside the Burlington Hilton to protest against the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) at its annual conference.

SFI is a nonprofit organization that maintains a forest certification program, according to the SFI website.

 Students and Burlington community members gathered to express their concerns that SFI is an “industry front group,” according to a press release. 

Ralliers said that SFI has been “greenwashing” and deceiving consumers by promoting companies as environmentally friendly when they are not.

“SFI you’re false or fake, we don’t want you in our state,” UVM students chanted.  

A nonprofit environmental organization called ForestEthics claimed that SFI has stated false information about their business, according to the ForestEthics website.

SFI is funded by American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) and allows the use of toxic chemicals, clear-cutting and putting false eco -friendly labels on their products, according to the website.

“For more than 20 years, I’ve investigated how various industries try to greenwash their image, and SFI is probably the most outrageous case of all,” said Brian Tokar, professor of environmental studies and director of the Institute for Social Ecology.

At the rally in front of the Hilton, Tokar roused the crowd with a speech against the practices of the SFI. 

“Here in Vermont, we know what a greener world looks like, [and it] doesn’t involve the timber industry,” he said.

Community members Lindsay Gillies and Robert McKay came to the rally wrapped in bath towels and used green paint and sponges to “greenwash” ralliers and make their statements against SFI ideals.

“It’s really unfortunate that another corporation is trying to use Burlington’s green image to sell their product,” Gillies said. 

Doug Creighton, a forestry conservation student from the University of Toronto, was invited to the SFI conference and said that he felt the SFI is doing what it can to keep the forest a forest.

“We are really trying to keep the forest going and the only way to do that is cut them at a sustainable level,” Creighton said.

UVM forestry major Sean Mahoney asked some of his fellow students why they were rallying against the company he represents. 

“When asked that they couldn’t give me any facts,” Mahoney said. “And for the record, for those students that biked here, I biked to this conference too.  I’m trying to do my part as well.”