Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Image is Everything? The Problem of Paper

Most people who have been in business for a while (or even those who are just starting out) know that a good logo and effective marketing materials are an important part of building a business. As a result, many business owners and directors of non-profit organizations work with professional designers to help communicate their organization’s mission and values to their target audience. With concerns about global warming and protecting the environment mounting, more organizations than ever are trying to send the message of their commitment to socially and environmentally responsible business practices. But how do you start sending a green message to your audience? What can you do as a business owner or non-profit director to encourage eco-friendly practices?

One place you can start is by choosing paper wisely. Although those glossy sell-sheets and brochures you get from your online printer might look snazzy, most glossy stocks only contain about 10-15% post-consumer waste, which means that most of the fiber from these sheets come from new trees, which leads to increased deforestation. In fact, most traditional papers labeled “recycled” are only required to contain 30% post-consumer waste (for those who are unfamiliar with the term, “post-consumer” refers to paper which has been used by consumers and recycled instead of thrown in landfills). In addition, the paper industry’s dependence on the use of chlorine-based bleaching agents in the creation of paper “places this industry as the worst water polluters in the world.”[1]

However, a growing number of paper companies have started to heed the call of environmental stewardship, and there are now a significant number of eco-friendly sheets available for everything from the most high-end brochure to the simplest copy job. Some of my favorites include: the Environment line from Neenah paper (I print my business cards on PC100 Natural); Fox River’s Confetti Line (a nice selection of speckled sheets in great colors); and Mohawk Options (Mohawk Color Copy paper, by the way, comes in a 100% PCW version and is manufactured using 100% wind energy.) No matter what you’re using it for, no matter what your budget, you can find an eco-friendly paper that will suit that purpose.

When specifying paper for a print job, look for high levels (50-100%) of post-consumer content, and that it’s manufactured using a PCF or TCF process (PCF means that no new chlorine has been introduced in the recycling process, although chlorine may have been used in the original paper; TCF means totally chlorine free, and often applies to sheets which use virgin fiber). Unsure where to look? Ask your printer or designer – most designers (such as myself) prefer to deal with printers themselves, and letting them know you prefer eco-friendly papers will help them make the most responsible choice for your materials. If you do decide to deal with the printer yourself, make sure to tell them the type of papers you’re looking for – color, coated or uncoated, finish, and level of post-consumer content. Printers generally have great relationships with various paper mills and distributors, so they can be a terrific resource for finding a quality sheet. For more information on smart paper choices,visit the following links:

Conservatree: Environmentally sound paper overview – consumers are key

Celery Design San Francisco’s Ecological Guide to Paper

Wikipedia article on paper recycling

[1] Source: Treecycle.com: about recycling and recycled paper, http://www.treecycle.com/recycling.html

© 2006 Dani Nordin/the zen kitchen. Previously published at gather.com and notes from the zen kitchen, the monthly newsletter of the zen kitchen. To sign up for the newsletter, visit tzk-design.com.

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