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Recycled Paper and Green Printing: Separating Fact from Myth

If you are like most people today, you are always on the lookout for new ways to lessen your impact on the environment. Being a responsible steward of nature often includes being conscious and selective about what types of processes, products, and vendors you utilize. But with all the marketing speak and misconceptions about what's environmentally-friendly and what's not, making the right decisions can be a difficult and confusing process.
One example of the importance of separating fact from myth is this idea that utilizing paper and printing is harmful to the environment. Misleading environmental claims like deforestation, excessive energy consumption and crowded landfills have overshadowed the fact that today's paper often comes from a renewable resource, is recyclable and even responsible. So, to help cut though the clutter, let's tackle some of the common myths about paper's effect on the environment.

Myth 1: Making Paper Destroys Forests

Paper companies that use responsible forest management practices plant about four trees for every tree harvested.
There are also a number of credible certification systems ensuring that paper certified under them comes from a responsibly managed forest source. If paper companies comply with the strict regulations set by these certification systems, printing becomes a renewable resource that is both recyclable and biodegradable.
"When people use more paper, suppliers plant more trees. If we want bigger commercial forests, then we should use more paper not less. Our policies should directly protect the important wildlife habitats, not try to reduce our demand for paper." (Edward L. Glaeser, Professor of Economics at Harvard University)

Myth 2: Making Paper Consumes a Lot of Energy and Fossil Fuels

Over the past decade the pulp and paper industry has made an impressive commitment to improve fuel efficiency and independence by investing in their infrastructures to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources.
At the same time, the carbon footprint associated with information and communication technologies is quickly growing. According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, computers, data centers, mobile phones and telecommunications networks could be among the largest emitters of greenhouse gases by 2020. As you can see going 'paperless' can come with a cost.

Myth 3: Recycled Paper is Always Better for the Environment than Virgin Paper

The truth is that virgin fiber harvested using recognized third-party certified sustainable forestry practices is as environmentally sound as the use of recycled paper. While recycled paper does reduce waste, paper's full life cycle must be considered before making a determination. Recent Life Cycle Management studies show:
  • There are limitations to the use of recycled fiber that make the need for virgin fiber inevitable, including the loss off yield and strength during the repulping and deinking process
  • Fiber can be recycled no more than 5-7 times
  • Not all categories of paper can be recycled for use in printing and writing grades.
Both recycled and virgin fiber has their purpose and justification for use. But the reality is that the paper industry can use all of the recycled fiber available, but the recycled paper industry depends on virgin fiber. They are both part of the same cycle. Learn more about recycled paper here.

Choosing Wisely: How to Pick a Green Printer

So, what does all this mean for you? If you are looking to get marketing materials or stationery printed for your business but want to make sure you utilize a printer who uses responsible printing practices, there are a few things you should consider:
  • Who is their paper vendor? Check to make sure your printer uses a company who holds a certification that shows they are adhering to strict forest management standards.
  • Do they offer a variety of recycled papers? Green printers should offer a range of different recycled paper stocks depending on what you are looking.
  • What type of ink do they use? Vegetable-based inks are a good choice because they are gentle on the environment and still produce bright, high quality images.
  • What type of coatings do they use? Water-based aqueous coatings are friendlier to the environment that UV coatings and protect your printed pieces.
  • What do their printing processes look like? Consider things like whether or not they use wind power, their facility and what their company recycling policy is.
If you really want to make the right decisions when it comes to paper and green printing, it's important to learn all the facts. Do your research and utilize a printer who works with a certified paper company and offers a variety of environmentally-friendly benefits. You'll rest easy knowing that your printed materials are coming from an eco-friendly printer who cares about the environment.
To learn more about's green printing practices, visit our PFL and the World Page or call one of our friendly print representatives at 800.930.6040 to get started on your next green print project!
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