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Going Green: Get to Know the Basics of Green Paper

Shannon Azbill Shannon Azbill Senior Sourcing Manager

There is no getting around it – in direct mail we use a LOT of paper! The good news is paper is a renewable resource, and there are many options to ensure your organization’s values on sustainability and conservation are supported by your paper choices. The following information may help you sort through some of the common considerations when it comes to paper.

Recyclable Paper

The EPA estimates that for every one ton of recycled paper, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space can be saved. Paper is recyclable and recycling options are widely available to consumers; therefore, at the very least encourage recipients of your direct mail piece to toss it in their recycling bin when done. Use a recyclable logo (also known as the “mobius loop”) with the claim “recyclable” or “please recycle” to encourage the recipient to recycle!

Recycled Paper

Not to be confused with “recyclable paper”, recycled paper contains a certain percentage of reused paper content, also known as PCW (Post-Consumer Waste). Recycled paper is less harmful to the environment because it reduces the need for virgin pulp, which means fewer trees being cut down, less energy consumption, and lower carbon emissions. Many papers are made with a standard 10% PCW content and there is a very small, or in some cases, no upcharge for the recycled content. Papers containing this small percentage of PCW will print and look just as good as equivalent virgin paper grades. If you want to step-up your game further, you can specify 30% or even 100 % PCW content – the most eco-friendly stock option available. With an increase in PCW content, the paper will come with a higher pricetag due to the cost of paper mills purchasing the recycled paper, which is more expensive than the cost of virgin pulp. Let the world know that you are using recycled paper by using the recycle logo, it is recommended to also denote the percentage of PCW content that is being used.

Chain-of-Custody Standards

The paper-making process is complex and has a long supply chain. Another layer you could add to the green mix is to ensure that the paper used came from, and was processed by, responsible sources. By using manufacturers and paper brands that maintain chain-of-custody certifications either through the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) you can convey your organizations commitment to the environment by using their logos on your printed pieces. Both SFI and FSC are independent, non-profit organizations that maintain and certify their own unique standard for responsibly managed forests and supply chains. They are dedicated to ensuring the heath and future of forests for generations to come.

Reduce Paper Waste

One of the most overlooked ways to make sure you are doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint is to simply reduce paper waste! Think about your programs and where there may be waste and evaluate if changes could be made to help minimize.

  • Are you implementing address hygiene practices to make sure the names you are mailing are deliverable and real addresses?
  • Consider culling low or non-performing names for additional environmental (and production and postage) savings!
  • Consider if you have segments that would prefer to receive less mail communications.
  • The nature of traditional print processes require paper waste and spoilage as the press is being set up and color is being dialed in. Consider if your program might be right for a digital print method which uses very little paper waste. And, a bonus of digital print, is each piece can be uniquely personalized allowing for enhanced donor communications!

About the Author

Shannon Azbill
Shannon Azbill Senior Sourcing Manager

Shannon, PS’ Senior Sourcing Manager, has been serving with PS since 2010. Shannon is PS’ expert in all things production. She trains each person that joins the company with genuine care and support, grace, and she uses her expertise to help others truly understand, learn, and grow. She has held a variety of production-related positions in the printing and publishing industry and has over 24 years of experience in our industry. Shannon leads by example with her open-mindedness and her determination to listen with curiosity. 

Shannon telecommutes from Trinity, Florida, and she loves to play tennis and she is interested in nature photography. Shannon also is interested in music, and her favorite holiday is Christmas.