Eco-Activists Blockade Victoria's Secret to Protest Forest Destruction for Catalogs

To see a video of the action, click here.

On October 24th, 2006, 2 activists from Wetlands Activism Collective and Catalogs Without Clearcuts chained themselves to the doors of the Victoria’s Secret store on 85th Street and Broadway in Manhattan as part of a protest demanding that that the underwear chain stop contributing to forest destruction through the printing of over one million catalogs every day on unrecycled paper from endangered Canadian boreal forests and Southern US forests.

"I've been to the Boreal Forest," said PJ McKosky, one of the protesters chained to the store. "I've seen the teeming wildlife and intricate ecosystems. The fact that Victoria's Secret is so blatantly and knowingly participating in the destruction of this forest is sickening."

"It's time for Victoria's Secret to stop 'considering' a new paper policy and start implementing one," said Rev. Charles Blustein Ortman, minister of the Unitarian Church of Montclair, NJ. "Every day Victoria's Secret stalls, they do more damage to the environment."

Catalogs without Clearcuts is a coalition of New York City area activists including the Wetlands Activism Collective, students, and religious leaders. The action was shows an escalation of tactics employed by grassroots activists working on the campaign to reform Victoria's Secret's catalog practices.

If you’d like to volunteer to help forest destruction or want to learn more, call Wetlands at (201) 928-2831 or email activism@wetlands-preserve.org.

For additional info on the Victoria’s Secret campaign, visit http://victoriasdirtysecret.net

Media Coverage of the Action

CBS TV -- Virgin Paper Protest Held At Victoria's Secret

by Magee Hickey
October 23rd, 2006

(To see the video of this report, click here)

(CBS) NEW YORK There was a protest outside a Victoria's Secret store Monday morning, and it wasn't about the store's sexy lingerie.

Victoria's Secret is destroying endangered forests, according to protestors in Manhattan Monday. They say that the North American boreal forest is disappearing because of the 365 million catalogs Victoria's Secret prints each year.

The demonstrators are demanding that the sexy underwear company stop printing their catalogs on virgin paper.

"Those lacy panties that are advertised are coming at a cost to our planet's environment," said protestor Adam Weissman.

"They have a paper policy that is totally unethical and environmentally destructive," said Peter, another protestor.

Police had trouble cutting off the chains protestors used to on the front doors of Victoria's Secret.

First, extra large box cutters weren't strong enough.

A power chain saw wasn't enough either.

Finally, a hydraulic cutter did the job, and the protestors were led off in handcuffs to the 20th Precinct.

There was mixed reaction on the Upper West Side.

"I've already written to Victoria's Secret about this," one resident said.

"This is a minor issue in terms of what's going on in the world," another resident said.

A third area resident said, "I think it's a good idea to protest, but it won't make a difference."

A spokesman for Victoria's Secret said they are using more and more recycled paper in their catalogs, but the protestors say the changeover is not happening quickly enough.

This was the group's third protest in three months. They say that they are planning more protests in the future.

Village Voice Website-- Environmentalists Chain Themselves to Victoria's Secret

by Sarah Ferguson
October 23rd, 2006

Victoria's Secret got nailed again today when a pair of activists chained themselves to the entrance of the lingerie chain's Upper West Side store to demand that the company stop pulping virgin timber to churn out its ubiquitous catalogs.

Using bike locks, two members of the activist coalition Catalogs Without Clearcuts bolted their necks to the front doors of the Broadway and 85th Street boutique at 9:45 this morning, preventing shoppers from entering for nearly an hour.

They were backed by about two dozen other demonstrators—many of them young freegans link with the Wetlands Activist Collective—who greeted the morning rush of Manhattan commuters and mothers and nannies pushing strollers with singsong chants like:

"Victoria's is stripping forests bare, just to sell you underwear!"

and:

"Victoria's Secrets, don't you know it's wrong to log the forest to sell your thongs?"

They came off like typically preachy, self-righteous environmentalists. Yet many passersby seemed genuinely concerned by the notion that Victoria's Secrets is printing up no less than a million catalogs a day using predominantly virgin paper milled from Canada's Boreal forest—the largest tract of ancient forest left in North America—in addition to second-growth forests in the Southern U.S.

"They send me way too many catalogs, I agree," commented one Upper West Side mom, as she quickly wheeled her infant past the ruckus.

Another young woman approached bearing a coupon to redeem a free set of pink panties, then quickly scurried away. "Of course it's disturbing," she responded, when asked how she felt about shopping there. "I had no idea they were killing all those trees."

Although activists have been targeting Victoria's Secret outlets across the country for the last two years, the demonstrators today said they decided to "up the ante" with civil disobedience in order to press the company to act on a pledge to expand the use of recycled paper.

"They've been talking about contracting with a more environmentally friendly paper supplier for the last year," noted Rev. Charles Blustein Ortman of the Unitarian Church in Montclair, New Jersey, who helped shepherd reporters to the word-of-mouth-only demonstration. "We want them to know that it's time for them to make a decision."

The spokesperson for Victoria's Secrets parent company Limited Brands did not return press calls, but instead forwarded a general email touting the company as "a leader in the retail industry with respect to waste reduction and recycling."

The email noted that Victoria's Secrets clearance catalogs and the company's annual reports are now produced using 100 percent recycled paper. But the clearance catalogs amount to just 12 percent of the firm's total output.

On their website, you can watch a video of Limited Brand's VP Tom Hellman standing before a babbling brook as he boasts of the 9500 tons of office paper and cardboard the company recycled last year—enough to save more than 161,000 trees.

But activists say that doesn't make up for the bulk of the firm's paper use—those glossy pin-up-style calendars—which are printed on entirely virgin paper and mailed out to customers at the rate of one nearly every two weeks.

"It's not just trees they're destroying, but an entire ecosystem where vast numbers of songbirds in North America go to nest, and where caribou and grizzly bears and wolverines live," said PJ McKosky, a 25-year-old pet sitter from Williamsburg, who said he'd spent a month camping in the Boreal in August in order to experience the impact of clearcutting first hand.

"These are species that require intact eco-systems to survive, and they're just ravaging all that to sell underwear," added McKowsky as he sat cross-legged before the store's entrance with a thick chain looped around his neck, pinning him to the brass handles of the front door.

"We will not stand idly by while they're participating in ecological apocalypse!" chimed in Adam Weissman, coordinator of the Wetlands' Activist Collective, who was chained to another door a few feet away.

The police took the demo in stride. At 10:40, a team from the NYPD's Emergency Services Unit arrived to cut the locks. First they attempted to clip the casehardened steel chains with a pair of giant bolt cutters. When that didn't work, they tried to saw through the links with a Sawzall. Finally they brought out the big guns-- a hydraulic powered Hurst tool (the kind used to pry people from car wrecks), which looked like a big lobster claw, and which snapped the links like celery stalks.

As two activists were cuffed and led away in a squad car, police escorted a few determined shoppers inside. Police said they expected the two would be charged with disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, and criminal mischief.

"Of course, I absolutely support their action," remarked Patricia Coulson, a banker from London sporting a crushed velvet hat. "At home, I'm on a mailing list so I don't get junk mail. I'm just picking up something for a friend," she said, before wading into the racks of push-up bras.


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