The STM: Masters of Greenwashing?

This is an issue that we’ve wanted to write about for a few years now. A stand must be made against the two dailies distributed in the Montreal Subway system, as well as those who allow this environmental destruction to occur. For those of us who take public transit in Montreal, everyday we see the men and women in bright orange jackets handing out those free dailies in each subway station (and train station). We also see those useless newspapers everywhere else: on subway benches, on the ground of subway stations, outside the subway stations, they’re everywhere, polluting and invading our land like some strange species of animal not native to our environment. Some stats:

  • According to NADbank data, over a period of 5 days, 1,219,300 copies of the two dailies are being read in Montreal.
  • According to, one tree, on average makes 3 Sunday Times sized newspapers.
  • A good estimate is that the Sunday Times is about 5 times bigger than the free Montreal Subway system dailies.

So one tree would make approx 15 of those dailies in the Metro…

  • Therefore… 1,219,300 copies each 5 days
  • 15 copies equals 1 tree
  • There are 52 weeks in a year
  • Conservatively, there are 1,210 trees per acre of forest on average

That makes 4,226,906 trees! The equivalent of 3,493 acres of forest gone each year! (And that doesn’t count those dailies that are printed, but never distributed.)

Now, it’s not only trees. If only it were so simple. The machinery that cuts down these trees uses fossil fuels, and it takes a lot of fossil fuel to cut down 3,493 acres of forest each year! Plus, let’s add to this the energy and water used for processing and the fact that these trees are removed from the natural CO2 scrubbing loop, and well, the math to calculate the environmental effect is really getting mind boggling…

For a society like the STM that makes wall sized adds proclaiming that the Metro has been electric since ‘67, proclaiming that the STM is ‘thinking green’ and ‘looking out for our future’ to then, behind the scenes, support the destruction of so many acres of forest each year, well, all that sounds a lot like greenwashing to me…

Greenwashing is the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly. The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices.

And make no mistake, even if the paper is being recycled, it still needs to be processed, transported, printed, and re-recyled, and all that also takes energy in droves!

So, dear population of the Island of Montreal, next time you get handed one of those dailies, think about this little post, and just say no.

  • For every 15 of us that say no, one tree is saved.
  • For every 3 weeks you just say no, you personally save 1 tree!
  • In a year, you’ll save 17 trees.
  • For every 75 people that decline, 1 acre of forest is saved per year.

And that’s how we can all make a big difference! Not with grandiose gestures, but with little individual acts. Once those acts are multiplied by the population performing them, then we’ll end up with something grandiose!

Being, or becoming, a true green company is hard. It requires a lot of work, and it requires a lot of effort, and it requires unwavering commitment. Simply saying it, dear STM, doesn’t make it so…

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