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Mary Kay solves world hunger

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A press release from Mary Kay Inc. caused reporters in the Independent newsroom to do a double-take last week. Apparently the Dallas-based cosmetics supply mogul, with the help of the Arbor Day Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service, “completed the total reforestation of the Bitterroot National Forest.”

Well done.

Mary Kay’s reforestation initiative in the Bitterroot supplied the Forest Service with 200,000 new trees, which were planted during the last three days of April. Those trees won’t, as the release says, “complete the reforestation at Bitterroot,” but they’re enough to kick-start a new portion of Mary Kay’s Pink Doing Green Sustainability Program.

The press release’s point of contact, Ryanne Dalton, declined to comment on the hyperbolic wording, instead referring questions about the project to Beth Lange, the company’s chief scientific officer.

The reforestation plan is part of Mary Kay’s Compact Recycling Program, which promises to plant a tree for every used compact submitted by customers nationwide. Mary Kay is currently phasing out non-recyclable compacts and putting reusable ones on the market. They received over 300,000 old compacts in response.

The Compact Recycling Program is just one of several environmentally conscious initiatives Mary Kay has undertaken. The company also switched to corn- and potato-starch based packing peanuts over the mainstream Styrofoam.

“We’ve had sustainability projects for years, so this is nothing new for Mary Kay,” says Lange.

Mary Kay is one of several corporations, including Citibank and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, funding Bitterroot reforestation efforts through the Arbor Day Foundation. The Foundation’s activity in the Bitterroot heightened after extensive forest fire damage in 2000, says Nan Christianson, public affairs officer for the Bitterroot.

Still, Mary Kay’s 200,000 trees are just twigs in a very large forest. Christianson says the district hopes to stretch the trees across 1,400 acres of a 1.6 million acre wilderness thinned by fires, harvesting and insects. That rounds out to about 400 to 700 trees per acre.

Far from the “total reforestation” the news release brags, but Christianson says she’s still thankful for the company’s commitment to healthy forests. And as for that press release?

“I might not have worded it that way,” she says.

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