Tips for selecting the right eco-friendly papers

green_papers****Guest post from David Grossman (SVP, Grossman Marketing Group)****

When getting ready to print a piece of marketing collateral, there are many ways in which you can make it more environmentally friendly.  None is more important than your paper selection.

There are a number of criteria by which you can evaluate your paper options:

  1. What percentage of post-consumer recycled content is contained in the paper?
  2. Is the paper made with 100% certified wind power?
  3. Is the paper FSC-certified (The FSC logo stands for Forest Stewardship Council, a group that works to ensure that the materials used are sourced responsibly.  Each step in the chain (i.e. from forest to printer) must be traceable.  The intent of the FSC system is to eliminate habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous peoples and violence against people and wildlife that often accompanies logging)
  4. Is the paper process and elemental chlorine free?

While all of these factors combine to determine the eco-friendliness of a paper, the single most important factor is the percentage of post-consumer content.  This indicates how much of the paper pulp comes from material that has been used by consumers, then reclaimed and reused, thereby eliminating the need for that portion of the paper to be made from virgin fiber.

Obviously the goal is 100% post-consumer waste (PCW).  This means that no trees were used to make this paper.  There are varying percentages of PCW contained in readily available commercial printing papers made by the major paper mills.  Some of my favorites, which incorporate all of the aforementioned criteria are (in order of preference):

UNCOATED PAPER (all of these papers are 100% PCW):

Monadnock Astrolite PC 100

  • This is arguably the most premium of all readily-available eco-friendly papers.  The downside is that it is generally the most expensive
  • It has gorgeous finish/printability
  • Despite being 100% PCW, it is a bright white stock

Mohawk Options PC 100

  • Very smooth finish
  • Bright white shade
  • Excellent Printability
  • The one complaint I have heard is the occasional appearance of black specks throughout the sheet.  This is a byproduct of the 100% PCW

Neenah Environment PC 100

  • It can be slightly less readily available than Astrolite or Options
  • Nice finish
  • Nice shade of white

Rolland Enviro 100

  • This paper is very affordable and performs admirably for a value sheet of paper
  • Less smooth and less bright than the previously mentioned sheets
  • Prevalent black specks
  • Good for clients who want a paper with a more obvious recycled look/feel

COATED PAPER

Sappi LOE (Lustro Offset Environmental)

  • Contains 30% PCW, which is the highest percentage available in readily-available commercial printing paper
  • Beautiful finish
  • Excellent printability

Chorus Art

  • This imported sheet of paper has 50% recycled content with 25% PCW
  • It is extremely cost-effective and performs at a level far beyond its price point
  • Good finish
  • Good printability

For comparison’s sake, a typical sheet of paper contains approximately 10% recycled content, which may or not be PCW.  Please note that I didn’t mention any papers made by New Leaf Paper, despite their high degree of PCW.  This is due to their unreliable availability, especially on the East Coast.

In this day and age, where environmental awareness has been significantly elevated, it is key to make decisions with sustainability in mind.  There is no choice that has more of an environmental impact on your printing than paper selection.

WSJ: Interesting report on eco-logos and green marketing

Courtesy Wall Street Journal.  Illustration by Michael Witte.

Courtesy Wall Street Journal. Illustration by Michael Witte.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting report in Thursday’s issue titled: “As Eco-Seals Proliferate, So Do Doubts.” The article discusses how a number of unregulated organizations that purport to verify “green” product claims have sprouted up, which only makes buying these products even more confusing for businesses and consumers.

Here are the two main points that the writer makes:

1) The U.S. Government may need to oversee the creation of Federal green marketing standards, similar to what the U.S. Department of Agriculture has done with organic foods.

2) Eco-seals that are verified by reputable third-party organizations are more reliable.  One example the writer provides is a Canadian-based organization, Ecologo.

I couldn’t agree more.  I have been pushing my industry and my clients to be transparent about green marketing claims, especially because consumers are smart and see through “fuzzy” and unsubstantiated claims that organizations make.  This is why when a client uses eco-friendly papers in their marketing programs and wants to explain the environmental benefits derived from these choices, they should not use a paper company’s calculator to arrive at these statistics.  Rather, they should use the paper calculator created by Environmental Defense, a leading non-profit dedicated to the environment.  I have written about this resource a number of times over the past several years.

I also believe that the Federal government should step in and begin to regulate green product claims.  I know this will be a difficult process, as it would be impossible to apply the same standards across all industries.  Nevertheless, it is important to start now, as it will help companies and individual consumers to better navigate the increasingly-complicated product landscape.

Here’s a link to the full article.

Excellent Green Design Newsletter

header1Graphic Design USA, a news magazine for graphic designers and creative professionals, publishes two e-newsletters per month.  One of them is entirely focused on green design issues.  Here’s a link to the latest issue. The newsletter is free and features a wide range of interesting news snippets about paper, industry trends, etc.  It’s worth a quick read every month.  Here’s a link to past issues as well as a sign-up form at the bottom of the page.  Enjoy!

Best practices in green printing: using printed collateral to support your organizational mission

My firm does a fair amount of work for SkyFuel, a solar energy company headquartered in New Mexico.  SkyFuel is a cutting-edge clean technology provider that has been recognized for their pioneering work in the renewable energy space.

SkyFuel needs to disseminate their ideas in printed form at trade shows, investor presentations and other industry events.  When they publish such literature, we have partnered with them to help make these pieces as green as possible, while always watching the bottom line.  For their uncoated items (business cards, letterhead, etc), we use a specific paper from the Mohawk Options line that is 100% post-consumer recycled.

Image courtesy of SkyFuel

Lately, when printing brochures for their various products as well as posters for a recent launch event, the client wanted to use coated paper, especially since the pieces contained images of the sun, so having the paper shine in the light was important.  We worked with the SkyFuel team to choose a stock made by New Leaf Paper that has the highest degree of post-consumer content of any paper on the market.  On all of their coated pieces, the following copy is included in a prominent position: “Printed on New Leaf paper that is FSC-certified and made with 60% post-consumer recycled fiber and processed chlorine free.  Energy used is 100% certified renewable or offset with “green tags.”

SkyFuel is an example of a best-practice leader in their field that leverages printed collateral to support their organizational mission to be good stewards of the environment.  Experience has shown that when a company couples a deep commitment to the environment with marketing pieces that underscore this mission, their message resonates most effectively with key constituents.  SkyFuel also is very transparent about the environmental benefits of their various printed pieces, which makes the green attributes even more tangible for the reader.

Best practices in green printing: quantifying the benefits of going green – part 2

I frequently encourage clients as well as readers of my blog to be transparent about the environmental savings derived from “going green” with their marketing and communications.

My firm works with the Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters (MLEV), whose mission is to advocate for sound environmental policies and to elect pro-environmental candidates who will adopt and implement such policies.   They are the state affiliate of the League of Conservation Voters.

MLEV publishes an annual Environmental Scorecard, which serves as a guide to how Massachusetts legislators voted on key environmental issues during the past legislative session (2007-2008).  On page 2 of the attached PDF, MLEV quantifies the environmental savings from having produced their piece using responsible materials, based on calculations from the Environmental Defense Paper Calculator.

In addition, MLEV included several clean and recgonizable eco-logos on the back of the scorecard, underneath their return address on the mail panel.

These two transparent approaches (specific savings calculated and described inside as well as easy-to-understand labels on the outside) serve as a best practice for anyone in the marketing communications space.

Please click here to view a PDF of the scorecard.

A focus on green printing

I work with a wide variety of clients to help them design and execute environmentally-friendly marketing campaigns. A principal component of these programs involves print (direct mail, sales literature, annual reports, etc).

Over the last year, I have tried to distill a lot of what I have read and learned into 5 simple steps to “greening” your print projects:

  1. Use renewable energy, such as wind-generated electricity, in the production process – manufacturing of all kinds, including the creation of collateral, requires large amounts of electricity, traditionally produced by fossil fuel-powered generators. The combustion of fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Therefore, one of most effective ways to address the environment with your marketing communications is to produce your materials with renewable energy, specifically wind power. Any number of third-party reports highlight that wind power resonates very well with end consumers. Every time you use wind power to print a marketing piece, you are demonstrating a commitment to reducing greenhouse gases. My company, Grossman Marketing Group, prints with 100% certified wind power, which allows our clients to print our “produced with certified wind power” logo on their collateral at no extra cost to their organizations. Not only does this resonate well with end recipients, but it also creates demand for more wind farms, which will help our country reduce our dependence on foreign oil (please see my previous post on this subject: Looking ahead at the promise of wind power).
  2. Choose papers made with a high degree of post-consumer recycled content – this is probably the best way to make your print pieces green, as using post-consumer fiber is significantly less resource intensive than using virgin fibers. Once you make the commitment to use papers with post-consumer content, it is important to translate the environmental benefits to your constituents. The best paper calculator is managed by Environmental Defense, a leading environmental organization. Here’s a link: http://www.edf.org/papercalculator/
  3. Choose papers with FSC-certified fiber to preserve forest lands – the Forest Stewardship Council certifies that papers came from trees that were planted specifically for paper production. Although FSC-certified papers may come from virgin fibers, FSC is a good stamp of approval for a printed piece (although unlike renewable energy, most end consumers do not know what FSC means, and thus it does not generally resonate well)
  4. Choose papers made with process chlorine free (PCF) or elemental chlorine free (ECF) pulps – when paper is bleached with elemental chlorine, there can be harmful byproducts. Therefore, some paper manufacturers, notably Mohawk, have made great strides to reduce the amount of chlorine used in the bleaching process. For more information, please visit the following link on Mohawk’s site: http://www.mohawkpaper.com/environment/water/chlorine-free-pulp/
  5. Use vegetable-based inksSoy inks (or, most accurately “Soy-based inks”) are made almost identically to regular printing inks, with the substitution of vegetable oil (predominately soybean oil) for traditional petroleum-based oil. Ink is composed of approximately 35% oil (varies a bit from ink to ink), so when referring to soy-based inks, that is the approximate percentage you should cite. Therefore, when using vegetable-based inks, you know that you are reducing the demand for petroleum-based products, and using oil products that almost certainly have been refined in the United States. The remaining 65% of ink, whether soy-based or traditional, is made up of waxes and resins (which hold the ink together), dryers (which enable the ink to dry), and pigments (which give ink the color).