Green your printing: Paper

Paper and Sustainable Printing

One of the biggest reasons to green your printing is to reduce your paper footprint. Since every sheet of non-recycled or virgin paper comes from forests, using less paper results in fewer trees being cut down (we use only recycled paper and saved nearly 3,000 trees in 2010!). In fact, Conservatree suggests that one ton of office and printing paper may require up to 24 trees.

According to the Forest Stewardship Council, the U.S. is the largest market for paper products in the world, producing 90 million tons of paper and consuming about 100 million tons each year; about 25% of timber cut annually in the U.S. is used to make paper. To mitigate the impact of forest destruction, two strategies have evolved:
  1. Use recycled content as much as possible. In the recycling process, paper is washed and deinked before being made into pulp. This pulp goes through a bleaching process (ideally processed chlorine free) and is formed into paper by removing the water, drying the paper, and cutting it into rolls or sheets for use. An important measure to look for in recycled paper is the post-consumer waste content. The difference between recycled and post-consumer waste (PCW) is that PCW refers to paper that has already been used by consumers - basically, it's the paper that we toss into our recycle bins - whereas recycled paper might include materials that never reached the consumer, such as magazines that were printed but never sold.

  2. Use virgin paper from sustainably harvested forests. Recycled paper only accounts for part of our paper supply. According to the EPA, our paper comes from three sources: recycled materials, whole trees and other plants, and wood chips and scraps from sawmills, with about 1/3 of our paper coming from each of these categories. The Forest Stewardship Council has taken a leading role in addressing the second source of recycled paper by establishing principles and criteria that take into account the social and environmental impact of the forests from which the trees are harvested and by certifying printers and papers that stick to these standards.

What does this mean for your print decisions? First, remember that not all recycled papers are the same - there's a significant difference between a paper that is only 30% recycled with no PCW and a paper that is 100% recycled with 100% PCW - and choose the paper with the highest post-consumer content. Second, select FSC-certified printers and papers whenever possible. By taking these two steps, you can lighten your paper footprint.

To learn more about recycled paper, you can click here - our friends at New Leaf Paper (who supply our house stock) have prepared a handy glossary that breaks it all down for you!

This article originally appeared on the Greenerprinter blog.

To learn about greening your printing with our soy and vegetable-based inks, click "NEXT" .

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