For environmentally conscious office managers, purchasing the right paper involves making an important choice. Paper is the print consumable with the most obvious environmental effects because everyone knows how delicate the world’s forest ecosystems are.
The developing world went through a deforestation crisis between 1980 and 1995, losing 200 million hectares of forest in the process. This led to the foundation of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a not-for-profit alliance of government and non-government organizations dedicated to responsibly managing forests.
Since then, the proliferation of paper recycling opportunities alongside credible FSC certification have managed to control the greatest threats to the world’s forests. Now, office managers have three choices:
- Standard Paper
- Recycled Paper
- FSC-Certified Paper
For the office manager who wants to make the environmentally sustainable choice, this can present a dilemma. “Recycled paper” doesn’t always contain a high level of post-consumer waste. At the same time, deforestation remains high and privately owned paper manufacturers still displace indigenous peoples to make room for paper production.
Make the Best Choice When Purchasing Environmentally Friendly Copy Paper
Choosing the right environmentally friendly copy paper requires defining the subtle differences between terms commonly used to describe these paper types. It also requires breaking down what the FSC does and doesn’t certify.
1. Standard Paper
Standard paper may seem like the worst choice for eco-friendly office managers, but appearances can be deceiving. A standard paper manufacturer does not necessarily need to be FSC-certified to demonstrate care for the environment.
In fact, paper manufacturers may simply choose other certifications that represent their environmental concerns more accurately. One example is ISO 14001 certification, which provides a sustainable model for establishing a management system using natural resources.
A standard paper manufacturer may choose chlorine-free manufacturing methods. For consumers, it pays to learn as much as possible about the papers’ source and refining before purchase. Even if some standard manufacturers can be environmentally responsible, the majority don’t have strict environmental regulations in place.
2. Recycled Paper
There are many types of recycled paper. When most people think of recycled paper, they imagine paper made completely from discarded post-consumer waste paper, but this is rarely the case. Most recycled paper is made from a mix of post-consumer and pre-consumer paper – which is unsold paper discarded at the mill.
Other recycled paper manufacturers mix post-consumer waste paper with FSC-certified or standard copier paper. While recycling reduces the number of trees cut down, it increases the number of chemicals used to create high quality paper, since post-consumer waste needs to be pulped and de-inked before reuse.
On the other hand, reducing the amount of trees cut down also reduces pollution. Specifically, it cuts the amount of emissions generated by large tractors and logging machinery, which typically operate in delicate forest ecosystems.
3. FSC-Certified Paper
FSC-Certified paper is not recycled, but it can be more environmentally friendly than some recycled papers. The Forestry Stewardship Council certifies paper products based on three major considerations:
- Legal and Social Compliance. The FSC verifies that paper manufacturers comply with international agreements on deforestation and on the rights of indigenous peoples, such as those who live in the rainforests of one of the world’s largest paper producers, Brazil. FSC certification ensures the long-term well-being of workers and their surrounding communities.
- Ecological Conservation. The FSC monitors and ensures paper manufacturers’ efforts to conserve biological diversity in the ecosystems they work in. It measures performance metrics concerning water and soil quality while compelling manufacturers to generate reports on their effect on the local ecosystem.
- Forest Management and Renewal. FSC-certified manufacturers have a comprehensive forest management plan that includes renewing forests in carefully monitored conditions. This ensures that loggers replant the trees they cut down, establishing a sustainable cycle.
Should Offices Use FSC-Certified Copier and Printer Paper?
The differences between standard, recycled, and FSC-certified multipurpose paper seem to indicate that there is no perfect solution for creating environmentally friendly copy paper. However, environmental conservation does not stop with paper production, and paper recycling alone cannot address the environmental impact of a growing multi-billion dollar global industry.
In fact, FSC-certified paper manufacturers may have the best overall approach, since using freshly cut wood sends signals to the global marketplace to grow more trees. Capturing more of the Earth’s carbon in trees reduces the effect of global industrial carbon dioxide emissions and makes wood more widely available as a building material instead of emission-heavy plastic, concrete, and steel.
Increasing the volume of the Earth’s forests and managing them better can offset greenhouse gas emissions, provide diverse habitats for wildlife, and offer opportunities to the world’s poorest communities. For environmentally friendly copy paper to truly be sustainable, it must be part of a sustainable resource system.
Kelley Imaging can provide you with environmentally friendly print supplies to meet any need. Contact one of our print specialists today to get started!