Green tip for week #50 — Week of April 12, 2009

Use sustainable / recycled paper products

The consumption of paper, in homes, schools, businesses, and elsewhere, has a massive environmental impact.  Many times, people purchase paper without consideration for where it came from, and expect that when it is used, a new ream of paper will appear like magic.  There is a massive disconnect for most people between paper (the product) and trees (the source); many times paper is used without a moment’s thought about the fact that the consumption of paper means the consumption of trees.

How can we reduce that impact?  First, cut back on your use of a paper in general.  Recycle discarded paper, particularly mail, printing drafts, and newspaper.  If you can print drafts on both sides of a page, do so.

Next, look at sustainable paper products, or those that have less environmental impact.  There are many paper products made with postconsumer fiber, or recycled materials.  There is a great paper-purchasing checklist available at mohawkpaper.com that specifies what paper products to select to find the greatest environmental benefits.  Here is their checklist, in order of least impact to most:
1. choose paper made with 100% postconsumer waste fiber
2. choose papers with FSC-certified fiber to preserve forest lands
3. choose papers made carbon neutral with Verified Emissions Reduction credits
that fund additive, clean energy projects
4. choose papers made with emission-free renewable energy, such as wind
5. choose papers made with process chlorine free (PCF) or elemental chlorine free (ECF) pulps
6. choose uncoated papers; coated papers yield much less recyclable fiber
7. choose paper mills with a positive environmental track record
8. choose paper mills who have received third party certifications from organizations such as Green-e, Green Seal, and the Forest Stewardship Council    (Source: http://www.mohawkpaper.com/pdfs/Tips_Specify_Sustainable_Papers.pdf)

You may also be interested in learning about the paper-making process, and the interesting facts that can be found at Conservatree.com.  That site states that U.S. printing and writing paper averages a mere 10% recovered content.  That is terrible.  Even though some paper is fully 100% recovered/recycled/post-consumer content, other paper has no recovered content.  An average of 10% recovered content is abysmal, and needs to change.  That will require individuals, companies, schools, churches, political leaders and more to spread the message.

In the current focus on sustainability, environmental responsibility, and resource conservation, let’s not forget about paper, and the trees harvested to make the paper we use.  Harvesting trees and natural forests to make paper results in less habitat for animals, less oxygen production, and the emphasis of consumption over conservation.

Take charge of improving that situation by changing your paper consumption practices, and by sourcing paper made with recovered, recycled, or post-consumer content for your future paper needs.

Tell others about the importance of using environmentally responsible paper products, and the other great green tips you see on a weekly basis at Green52.org.

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