On The Paper Trail

Paperless might be perfect but sometimes there’s no avoiding printing. So when your brochure, business card or deskdrop needs to go to press, how do you make sure that you are being as eco-friendly as possible?

There are now a huge range of environmentally friendly paper stocks available but the debate continues between what is better for the environment; recycled paper or certified forestry paper.

Recycled paper

Recycled has obvious environmental benefits, and it's easy to see how you can contribute to its production. Put the paper in the recycling bin and buy recycled paper and the production loop is closed. What's more, recycling one tonne of paper reduces greenhouse gas emissions by approximately one metric tonne of carbon equivalent (CO2e).

But a lack of credible certification means "recycled" paper might not contain a very high a level of old paper. Always check percentages and buy the highest level of "post-consumer waste paper" – aiming for 100%. To further muddy the waters, if the paper was recovered using energy generated from coal, it might as well not be recycled.

So in summary, when buying recycled paper always check exactly what you are buying - check the percentage and look for reliable accreditation.

FSC paper

FSC stands for 'Forest Stewardship Council'.  They are an international non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting responsible forestry. Paper products from certified forests are marked with the FSC ‘tick tree’ logo. When you see this logo on your paper stock, you can be confident that it wont be harming the world’s forests in it's production.

FSC uses a system of inspecting and tracking timber and pulp throughout the production process. Forests are inspected to ensure they meet the strict standards of FSC’s 10 Principles of Forest Stewardship. These inspections are undertaken by independent accreditated organisations, such as the Soil Association. In order to be given FSC certification a forest must be managed in an environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable manner. This ensures that a forest is well-managed from the protection of indigenous people’s rights to the methods of felling trees. Forests that meet these strict standards are given FSC certification and the timber allowed to carry the FSC label.

More about their certification can be found on the FSC website.

As an alternative, you can always opt to choose both, as paper products increasingly offer both FSC-certified virgin fibre and recycled content. Just look for the FSC Recycled label.

Common certification to look out for

FSC: There are three types of FSC label; 100%, FSC Mix and FSC Recycled.

EU Ecolabel: The EU Ecolabel is applied to products that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle, from the extraction of raw material through to production, use and disposal.

ISO 14001: Internationally recognised environmental management standard. Based on the principle of continual improvement, it aims to identify, verify and reduce a business’s environmental impact.

Process Chlorine Free: Paper is manufactured without the use of chlorine. Papers can be certified as Process Chorine Free (PCF), Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) or Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF).

Heavy Metal Absence: Papers that do not contain heavy metals.


Increasingly there are new products available on the market which provide an alternative to paper. These can include cotton paper, wood-free paper and stone paper. Many tree-free papers are produced from agricultural residues (e.g. sugarcane bagasse, husks and straw), fiber crops and wild plants (such as bamboo, kenaf, hemp, jute, and flax) and waste textiles.

The online printing service, Moo.com, even provides an option to get your business cards printed on recycled cotton t-shirts! Find out more about this innovative technology here.

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