These days we are doing everything we can to lessen our impact on the environment. Below are six ways you can do your part!
1. Learn the lingo.
You’ll need to be familiar with industry jargon to appropriately select environmentally friendly papers. Here are a few terms you’ll often see:
* Virgin fiber—100-percent “pure” fiber from an original source
* Post-consumer content—Waste recovered from consumers and recycled
* VOCs—Volatile organic compounds (such as occur in petroleum-based printing ink)
* PCF—Processed chlorine-free
* TCF—Totally chlorine-free
* ECF—Elemental chlorine-free
2. Preserve and conserve.
The Recycled Products Cooperative estimates that over 100 million trees are cut each year to supply fiber for writing and printing papers in the United States. This is not only detrimental to forests, but to air quality and water reserves as well.
One way to preserve resources is to purchase recycled paper with high levels of post-consumer content. Using recycled paper saves landfill space and minimizes water and energy consumption. Check recycling symbols to see what percentage of recycled fiber was used during the manufacturing process.
3. Think about ink.
Do you know how your printer disposes of unused ink? If you’re unsure, ask. Petroleum-based inks leach VOCs—which cause cancer and birth defects—into the soil when printed papers end up in landfills. These toxins can also be released into the air as fresh inks dry.
Soy ink is an excellent alternative to petroleum based inks. Soy ink uses soybean oil that’s naturally low in VOCs. This smart substitute is sustainable, efficient, and cost-competitive. Many newspapers, magazines (including this one), and other materials are now printed with soy ink.
4. Do it digitally.
I recommend digital printing for economic reasons: Digital is ideal for short-run, four-color work for business cards, stationery, promotional pieces, and most print work that is less than 1,000 sheets of 13 x 19 inches.
This printing method even has advantages over soy inks. While soy is comprised of 86-percent oil—which isn’t biodegradable—digital printing uses 100-percent nontoxic toner. Toner-based inks also produce less chemical waste.
5. Consider alternative papers.
For certain projects, we suggest papers made from Kenaf and hemp, and a newer paper called TerraSkin, which is made from ground stone. TerraSkin is almost as strong as [synthetic] FedEx envelopes and it prints like a coated sheet. It also uses less ink, and is nontoxic and waterproof.
6. Choose better bleaching
Brighter, whiter papers are created by various bleaching processes. It’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of how manufacturers process their products so that you can select the best, most environmentally friendly papers for your projects.