We need to look at a lot of the myths and feelings we have around printing sustainability and harvesting trees that we carry with us from the past. What does the term ‘tree friendly’ imply? Does it mean that it is somehow environmentally responsible – or better for our planet? Here’s a rundown of the current ‘green’ alternatives out there in the industry.
Sugar Cane Paper
On the surface, it seems like an amazing environmental choice – it is manufactured from the reside waste of sugar cane.
However, we don’t know a lot about the environmental regulations in many of the countries where it is manufactured – especially concerning treatment of waste or by-products of the manufacturing process. In addition, many regions of the world where sugarcane is grown and processed still use oil and coal as energy sources. It would likely be safe to assume that the conversion and manufacturing process itself is very energy intensive. What are the ramifications of this combination?
An often neglected and hidden factor in the product choices we make is transportation and shipping. Freighters burn cheap bunker oil; it is only now that that the damaging effects of the shipping and transportation industries have come to the forefront. How does shipping impact the environmental footprint of these papers that come from the tropics?
Cocoon and Rolland EnviroPrint | 100% Post-Consumer Waste Papers
Cocoon is a new brand of coated papers made from 100% post-consumer waste. We do need to keep in mind, however, that this paper is manufactured in Europe. While we can assume very high standards and regulations, transport must also be considered.
The Rolland manufacturing plant is in Quebec. Rolland gets 90% of its mill’s energy needs from biogas — transported in a dedicated, 8 mile pipeline from a nearby landfill. Because it uses biogas and processes chlorine-free, it is a top choice all the 100% PCW papers available.
Another option often marketed as ‘green’ is Stone Paper. We can often favor it over synthetic stocks because it is manufactured from calcium carbonate. It is, however, bonded with high-density polyethylene (HDPE). The HDPE content is generally around 20%, so every 100 lbs. of this paper contains 20 lbs. of plastic. It’s ‘tree friendly,’ but not environmentally friendly at all.
The best choice might just be FSC certified paper (with varying levels of recycled post-consumer waste). In North America, we no longer ‘harvest’ trees, we ‘farm’ them; the forests are valued as renewable resources.
North American paper manufactures (with the FSC) are maintaining our forests in sustainable ways. This is not just optics. Without a truly renewable way of moving forward, the industry realized it would not survive. Pulp and Paper manufacturers are constantly audited by the FSC and manufacturing processes are review to regulatory bodies and laws. In addition, the energy sources to manufacture pulp and paper are generally much cleaner in North America.
The fact that we are at the point where we think about making green and better choices is a positive and optimistic step. We must, however, make sure that we weigh all the options and think critically about each of the choices we make to ensure they are well thought out and not made on a purely emotional basis.