These days, there’s no shortage of sustainable paper products on the market. Here are some tips on how you can make the best choice
Despite the widespread use of email and other digital communication technology, businesses today still rely on paper for printing and writing. The average office disposes of 350 pounds of waste paper per employee per year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. The good news is that, as a result of the efforts of environmentally concerned citizens, corporations and paper producers, today’s marketplace offers buyers an array of sustainable paper products.
Yet, with so many environmental claims, choosing sustainable office paper can be a challenge. That’s why it’s important to know the environmental issues surrounding the manufacture, use and disposal of paper. By understanding these lifecycle-based impacts, you can be better equipped to evaluate, compare, and make more informed paper purchasing decisions. Tools such as ecolabels and paper calculators can also help identify the most responsible office paper for your company.
Why buy sustainable paper?
For some purchasers, buying sustainable paper may be a new initiative. For others, it may already be part of their company’s common practice. Whatever your company’s purchasing policy, making sustainable choices for paper products offers multiple benefits—for the environment and your organization.
Such purchases can benefit a company’s bottom line. Although greener paper may be a slightly more expensive purchase upfront, purchasing it will create market demand and help bring down prices over time.
Companies that choose to use environmentally preferable paper can benefit from reputation enhancement. Buying cleaner, more responsible paper is healthier for a company’s reputation and can provide a competitive advantage. Environmentally preferable paper supports energy-efficient production, which reduces pressure on non-renewable resources and minimizes greenhouse gas impacts. The practice also produces less harmful effluent (liquid waste) thereby minimizing impacts on fish and waterways, helps control air emissions and pollution and produces less solid waste.
Sustainable paper choices also help minimize potential negative impacts on forest resources through the more efficient use of fibre, as well as fibre production best practices. Reusing and recycling waste paper fibre is important, as wood fibre can be re-used about six times. Recycling post-consumer fibre preserves and reduces pressure on woodlands and ecosystems and diverts waste from landfills. Forestry certification chain-of-custody programs ensure sources and levels of recycled fibre content are verified and virgin fibre content comes from a certified, sustainable forest or meets other minimum sourcing criteria. Sharing these benefits with stakeholders demonstrates a company’s commitment to sustainable practices.
What to consider
The pulp and paper industry has historically had a significant environmental footprint. But paper production has come a long way, and there are many producers today that have found innovative ways to reduce harmful impacts. Here are some key considerations for organizations when sourcing sustainable paper:
• Recycled content: reusing waste paper fibre is one of the key means by which environmental impacts may be reduced. Look for third-party certifications of recycled content.
• Reduced water and air emissions: paper producers must be able to demonstrate their mills’ lower contribution to polluting emissions and overall toxicity. Multi-attribute standards/certifications consider these parameters in their performance criteria.
• Efficient energy and water use: energy reduction and water management plans help reduce water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
• Sustainable forest management: sustainable forests preserve biodiversity, protect forests, reduce climate change, maintain forester qualifications, adhere to labour standards and minimize community impact. Look for third-party certifications.
• Reduced waste: environmentally preferable paper produces a lower volume of solid waste in the production process.