Getting a Feel for Paper: Smarter Choices for Your Business & the Environment

kelseyads / March 26, 2009


Many of you may be thinking, “what could my company possibly do to help the environment?” This article will help you understand that becoming good environment stewards doesn’t have to be painstaking. There are small steps you and your company can take to help out the environment starting with your company printing.

Paper and its technical terminology have long been a mystery to many but we are here to help you set the record straight. Knowing and understanding paper jargon can help you and your company make smarter choices when it comes to selecting paper stock for day-to-day in-office operations as well as your advertising and marketing efforts. While switching paper stock is a seemingly small effort, the manufacturing of and processing of paper is resource intensive and its consumption has exhaustive effects on the environment. Making small informed decisions about your company’s printing can help give the environment a boost, as well as give your company a boost, for all their hard work of trying to be more environmentally conscious.

Here are just a few basic terms of environmental attributes you will need to be aware of to make an informed decision. Granted, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but knowing some basics will help guide you in the right direction. Let’s begin with the term “recycled.” While used intermittently and loosely, the term recycled simply means to be made from old de-inked paper which has been processed chemically. Paper that is recycled generally appears with or has the recycled logo printed on it. The term recycled is also commonly used with the acronym PCW. PCW stands for Post-Consumer Waste. This means that particular product contains materials recovered after being used by a consumer. The percent of PCW the products contains is denoted inside or to the right of the recycled logo and indicated as a percentage. There is also PCF or processed chlorine free paper. This paper is made from recycled PCW but is processed unbleached or is bleached without Chlorine compounds. This type of paper is the most environmentally friendly.

Now, down to the nitty gritty. The following terms are a little more detailed and specific in where and how the paper products are harvested. If you believe strongly in protecting against deterioration of the world’s forests, then an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or SFI (the Sustainable Forestry Initiative) certified paper is what you are looking for. Both companies are independent nonprofit organizations who promote responsible management of the worlds forests and both hold stringent guidelines when it comes to their certification programs. However, if you’re looking to identify a leader of the two, the FSC’s standards are clearer on the issue and are more strict of their environmental standards.

Lastly, there are several processes that can be evaluated where the actual manufacturing of the product is concerned. We all know about renewable energy but did you know that some paper companies use renewable energy to produce their paper products? Some papers are manufactured with carbon neutral processes while others are manufactured with energy generated by windpower alone. You can look for most companies using these processes to be Green-e certified. This seal ensures that the renewable measures a company is taking to produce their products meets strict environmental and consumer protection standards.

Understanding environmental paper terminology is the first step in helping your company improve our environment. With this knowledge, you can now make informed decisions about your paper selections.


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