(Last Updated On: 6th January 2011)

I met a lady yesterday who runs a design and printing company; www.hailshamprinting.com .  We were discussing our business cards, which as good networkers we had to hand.  I noticed her cards were printed on FSC certified 50% recycled card and mine are on FSC certified 100% recycled card. I asked her how many people ask about the environmental impact of their printing and paper sources.  In her 4 years of running a printing business only a few customers had enquired about the environmental impact of their printing or requested recycled materials.

This got me thinking that people either;

a) don’t know of the impact,

b) get too confused by the choices, or

c) still only consider price and quality rather than the environment when making a buying decision.

When researching paper and printing I found many conflicting views and many promises, and a few printers where I could literally hear them suck air through their teeth and say ‘that’ll cost you’.

So I thought I’d share a few pointers.

You can get paper which has no claims of its environmental credentials – and yes this is often the cheapest.   You can also get paper from virgin forests where the paper is deemed to be sustainable -imagine for every tree cut down a new tree is planted.  This type of paper will state it is from a sustainable source.

Then there is paper which has been certified, e.g. by the Forest Stewardship Council – so you know it has met a list of environmental criteria all along the supply chain.

To add to the confusion you then need to decide on the mix of the paper – i.e. the amount of recycled content.

I believe there is a misconception that 100% recycled paper is ‘grey’ or of a lower quality. I use 100% recycled paper which clients have commented on the high quality, before I tell them it’s recycled.

The paper industry as a whole is aware of the large environmental impact of paper:

  • Destruction of beautiful and vital habitats (biodiversity is often lost as diverse forests are cut down and replaced with thousands of the same type of quick growing trees) -not to mention the impact on communities in the affected areas,
  • Destruction of the carbon sink (trees absorb the carbon emissions we pump out so when we cut them down they stop absorbing and if burnt they then release carbon back into the atmosphere),
  • Water use in the manufacturing process – although there are many stories of flooding, water is seen as a highly scarce resource in many parts of the world,
  • Pollutants used in the manufacturing and recycling process which pass into the land or water table,
  • Energy used in the harvesting, manufacturing and recycling process, and;
  • Pollutants released into the atmosphere during recycling or landfill.

The paper industry is taking steps to reduce its impact with new technologies and changes to its processes.  But there is still an environmental cost so for every sheet of paper you use, there is an impact.

I think every business will try to cut down on the use of paper – if not for the environmental impact but for the cost!  But businesses also need to consider how they reduce the impact their paper and printing has on the environment.

I’ve found it’s easiest to go for FSC paper as someone else has checked the paper comes from credible sources and is handled to high environmental standards to the point where I use it.  Although there are conflicting views on the impact of recycling itself, I can’t get away from the destruction of so many beautiful habitats for virgin paper or that once used, paper ends up in the landfill. I therefore choose 100% recycled.

Lastly, when it comes to printing I ask the printers what types of ink they use (vegetable based is best) and the good printers also bamboozle me with the types of efficient quality environmentally friendly printing machines they use!

So if I’ve inspired you to look for new paper sources or printers, then I would recommend these:




And I am sure there are more out there but I’ve found these willing to spend the time talking me through the options and sending me samples.  By flexing the quality, recycled content and source you can find paper to fit your budget.

Please let me know if you find other good suppliers – who don’t cost the earth – environmentally or financially!

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