Thursday, November 1, 2007

Greening Your Business Starts With The Paper You Print On

An abbreviated version of this article also appears in the April 2008 issue of Today's Charlotte Woman

If you hug a tree in the woods, and no one is there to see it, does the tree hug back? Figuratively speaking, yes. While the term ‘tree hugger’ is a bit pejorative, it’s generally accepted that being responsible business people and citizens means doing what we can to preserve and restore our environment. One way your business can do this is by making environmentally sensitive choices when purchasing printed collateral materials. How does the tree hug back? With lower costs. Often, using recycled papers will cost less than the alternative.

In today’s market, there are myriad options for environmental papers. The main considerations for environmental papers are:
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certification
- Pre/Post-Consumer product
- Chlorine Free
- Tree Free
all of which can be independent of one another or can be combined in a paper.

The FSC is an international organization that sets standards for responsible forest management and it accredits independent third party organizations that can certify forest managers and forest product producers to FSC standards. This means that when you purchase FSC certified paper, you can be assured that it is coming from a forest that is not being harvested in a way that would damage the natural habitat. Furthermore, you know that the rights of the workers and indigenous communities are respected. However, this is a fairly new certification and there are a limited number of papers that carry the FSC certification. Tim Etcheson, Vice President of Business Development with Wentworth Printers in Columbia, South Carolina also notes that it’s important to know that “if you want to carry the FSC certification on your finished piece, it must be printed with an FSC certified printer. There are several printers that carry this certification and more printers and paper manufacturers are earning certification every day, making it an easier and competitive option for businesses.”

Post-Consumer papers contain a percentage of recycled paper material and/or a percentage of post-consumer waste, while Pre-Consumer papers includes the trimmings and scraps from previous paper production. Many paper manufacturers already include pre-consumer content in their papers.

Chlorine was once a preferred method of bleaching paper pulp to produce a bright white finish, until it was discovered that the dioxin byproducts were contaminating our lakes and rivers. Today, there are several alternative methods to getting a bright white paper without contributing to contamination. Some manufacturers use elemental chlorine free process (ECF), process chlorine free (PCF), or totally chlorine free process (TCF). The ECF method uses chlorine derivatives that reduce dioxins by 90%. The PCF process uses no chlorine or chlorine derivatives and produces no additional dioxins. The TCF process is, true to its name, totally chlorine free. However, TCF papers are often made with virgin wood, eliminating the possibility of it containing recycled product. Many responsible organizations find that the most appealing option is PCF, which creates no additional dioxins and can be used with recycled papers.

It may surprise you to know that paper can be made from just about anything – denim, coconut shells, even old paper money! Tree free papers use any variety of organically derived fibers or ‘agrifibers’ such as hemp, cotton or other non-wood fibers. Often, these materials yield more pulp-per-acre than forests and can be brightened using a TCF process.

Several clients have been pleased to learn that the paper presented to them for their project is FSC certified and contains a percentage of post-consumer content. The misconception is that recycled paper is off-white or tan with some fiber or grain in it. To the contrary, one recent project used a beautiful, bright white sheet for a letterhead and business card package that contained 100% post-consumer content, was brightened process chlorine free, and cost less than comparable papers with fewer environmental benefits. When to opportunity arises, this client can now boast that their magnificent new promo kit is environmentally responsible. Quite a nice little hug.

This article is intended to simplify the terms and numerous options available when selecting paper, and empower businesses to make environmentally sensitive choices. For more detailed information about this topic, here are a few resources: