Do you ever have one of those moments where something you were 100% sure was true turns out to be...not necessarily so true? I had this happen to me just the other day when I was reading about how recycled office paper might not be the most eco-friendly choice.
Recycled Paper vs. Managed Forests
While in some situations, 100% recycled paper is still the best choice, according to Heidi Tolliver-Nigro over at Inspired Economist, there are times when recycled paper has a higher carbon footprint than virgin paper. How can that be? Heidi says:
What factors impact the carbon footprint of recycled paper?
- transportation of the fiber (distance of the collection center from the recycled mill)
- de-inking process
- bleaching method and chemicals used
- disposal of the de-inking waste (which can be landfilled)
- energy use and production inefficiency of many recycled mills (which can often be older plants with less efficient technology)
These, among other factors, can make the carbon footprint of recycled papers double that of papers made from virgin fiber from sustainably managed forests. (They key here is “sustainably managed.”) Especially if the mill is close to the fiber supply, virgin papers can be much kinder on the environment than papers using recovered fiber.
So, if your options are conventional paper or recycled, that 100% recycled paper is still the best option. For office paper, though, it's sounding like tracking down paper from managed forests might actually be the greener option.
Finding Sustainable Office Paper
It turns out that the Double A paper I purchased back in March might actually have been a more eco-friendly option than the recycled options I was looking for. I do wonder how it measures up if you consider that the paper is produced in Australia, and I purchased it in Atlanta, GA.
If you're looking for sustainably-produced paper, you might keep an eye out for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) seal. You can also look for paper with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative logo. FSC and SFI are both third-party certification programs.
Instead of Recycle, Reduce!
Of course, as the folks over at GreenBiz point out, the greenest option when it comes to office paper is to just plain use less. It might seem like it's hard to reduce, but every little bit counts. If we all use just a little bit less paper, it has a big impact!
For example, this month is crazy for me with festival applications. Traditionally when you apply for a craft market, you print out the application, fill it out, and drop it in the mail along with your check. While some craft markets have marched into the 21st century with online applications, many still rely on snail mail. This year, I've been sending festival organizers my application as an email attachment, offering to mail the check if they don't accept PayPal. So far, no one has asked me to send the paper application.
Is there something like this in your business? What processes that normally rely on paper could you change to be tree free?
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by sbeebe