From 1985 to 1993, fans of the television show "Cheers" got to know Woody Harrelson as the lovable, dimwitted Woody Boyd, a role that earned the actor five Emmy nods and one win. Harrelson inhabited the eponymous role so effortlessly it seemed as if he were merely playing himself. The lovable part may be pure Woody, but the dimwitted part? Not so much.

Harrelson is a man with a mission. With passion, intelligence and eloquence as his tools, little room remains for bumbling. Goodbye Woody Boyd; hello revolutionary eco-entrepreneur.

Since the time we met Harrelson as a sitcom star, he has gone on to earn great acclaim as an actor, as everyone knows. But along with his impressive acting chops, he has also established himself as an outspoken environmental activist. He famously went to bat for hemp, scaled the Golden Gate Bridge to protest redwood logging, went on the stump for the release of 14 chimps, and in 2012, took home the title of PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity. The animals (and Harrelson's other admirers) remain pleased.

With many celebrities and their causes, sometimes it just seems enough to speak up and promote awareness; but somehow, that’s not nearly enough for Harrelson. The vigor and intensity that earned him two Oscar nominations also comes across in real life. Which is why rather than just talking about saving the trees, Harrelson went out and co-founded an innovative paper company. And although Harrelson may refer to himself as a “happy hippie,” this is no hippy-dippy pipe dream. It’s a massive endeavor that makes serious, affordable copy paper that you can buy at Staples.

In the late 1990s, Harrelson teamed up with sustainably savvy businessman Jeff Golfman to form Prairie Pulp & Paper. The company has become the industry leader in research, development and commercialization of tree-free pulp and paper. Their first baby? Step Forward Paper, a copy paper made of 80 percent agricultural waste wheat straw and 20 percent Forest Stewardship Council certified wood fiber, and is bleached using an elemental chlorine-free sequence. The only noticeable difference between it and regular paper is that its manufacture doesn’t require the indiscriminate devouring of  forests.

In fact, a landmark Life Cycle Study comparison research report by Offsetters, a North American carbon management solutions provider, revealed that wheat-straw paper and 100 percent recycled tree-fiber paper types have the lowest environmental impact across the seven indicators studied.


 Photo: Rawtographer

Harrelson took the time to answer a few questions about all things trees from MNN. Here’s what he had to say.

MNN: How did you end up working on behalf of the trees?

Woody Harrelson: It has been a dream of mine for a long time to see non-wood, tree-free paper come to fruition. I have always felt a very strong connection and relationship to Mother Nature. Certainly some of my happiest times have been spent out in the forests, near streams or out in the ocean. I’m the happiest when I’m out in Mother Nature and I think that’s true for a lot of people.

To me the concept of cutting down forests to make paper, which typically is used once or twice and then thrown away, makes no sense at all. Paper should come from the farmer, it’s not meant to come from the forest. Non-wood paper helps our farmers, it helps our forests, it will help our future too.

What’s the biggest threat to the forests right now?

50 percent of the trees that are cut down go to making paper. Worldwide we consume over 400 million metric tonnes of paper each year and that equates to over 3 billion trees harvested annually.

We assume that our national forests are being protected. People drive through and look at forests, thinking, “Oh, that’s beautiful,” yet they don’t realize that on the other side of that beauty is often just clear-cut. That was really an alarming thing for me to learn.

What kind of impact can Step Forward paper have on the state of the trees?

The stats are these: you get two boxes of this Step Forward wheat-straw paper and that saves one tree. So you can imagine, if everybody starts using non-wood paper, you are saving an enormous amount of forests. It’s a relatively simple logic there that the more people are buying non-wood paper, the less trees are cut.

In a perfect world, how would the story of man-versus-nature play out?

Well, in a perfect world man is going to come to his senses and start acting in a more eco-friendly, responsible and lighter way on the planet.

We would start respecting Mother Earth and treating our planet with the love, care and dignity that she requires. That means we would have to change our habits and our behaviors with the way that we are purchasing things, whether it be buying tree-free non-wood paper, or organic fruits, vegetables and foods or getting off our addiction to oil and other destructive forms of energy.

So that’s my hope, my dream and my wish that we can eventually get to that point … because the alternative is not very appealing.

What can we do to help realize that vision?

We really need to reduce our carbon emissions and greenhouse gas footprints while curbing our addiction to big oil and all of the various consumption habits that we have that are not friendly to the planet.

The easiest steps people can take today to make a huge difference are first and foremost, to buy tree-free paper (Step Forward Paper is a step in this direction as it is 80 percent tree-free) and eat organic foods. Also eat less meat and animal products, eat more whole foods like fruits and vegetables, carpool or take public transportation, or use electric or biodiesel cars so you are not using as much oil.

I really do think we can make a huge difference on this planet. We as humans created this situation that we are in today and we can also get ourselves out of it. 

See? We told you he was smart. Step Forward Paper is available exclusively on and for order in Staples stores, through in-store kiosks.

Related stories on MNN:

Woody Harrelson fights for the forests with his tree-free paper company
Calling all treehuggers: A revolutionary new paper from the company co-founded by Harrelson is now available at Staples.