Responsible Paper Sourcing

When it comes to marketing, going digital is the most environmental friendly way, but it’s not always an option and doesn’t always have the same effect. So by collecting some information about sustainable & eco-friendly printing I want to give you an overview of how you can reduce your impact on the environment with Responsible Paper Sourcing.

Before we get to the eco-friendly options, let’s start with some facts about the paper industry.

The environmental effects of paper production include deforestation, the use of enormous amounts of energy and water as well as air pollution and waste problems. Paper accounts for up to 40% of total waste in the US.

  • We consume a lot of paper
    We use more than 2 pieces of paper for everyone on Earth every single hour. The demand for paper is expected to double by 2030.
  • Use of paper differs widely between countries
    In the USA, Japan, and Europe an average person uses between 250 and 300 kilos of paper every year. In India the figure is 5 kilos, and in some countries it is less than 1 kilo. If everyone used 200 kilos there would be no trees left.
  • Paper production requires LOTS of water
    It takes 10 litres of water to produce a single A4-sheet of paper. The pulp and paper industry is the single largest industrial consumer of water in Western countries.
  • Recycling works
    Producing 1 kilo of paper requires 2-3 times its weight in trees. 55 percent of the global paper supply comes from newly cut trees, even though paper can be recycled.
    Each ton of recycled paper can avoid the use of 17 trees; 1,440 litres of oil; 2.3 cubic meters of landfill space; 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 26,500 litres of water.


And now, let’s see what options there are to make better choices when it comes to responsible paper sourcing.

There are two types of paper that are classified as environmentally friendly, recycled and eco-friendly paper. What’s the difference?

Recycled Paper

The raw material for recycled paper can come from two sources:

  • Pre-consumer waste: production waste before reaching the consumer, e.g. factory cuts, trimmings and rejected material
  • Post-consumer waste (PCW): waste that’s been used by a consumer, who disposed of it and which was diverted from landfills

Why is this important?

Because paper labelled “recycled” isn’t necessarily made from the paper scrap you put out for recycling. Recycled paper from production waste comes from faulty paper in the mill, which goes right through the mill again. Using the same process as for virgin paper manufacturing, which can be non-environmental friendly at all.

So the more post-consumer recycled (PCR) content the better. Products labelled with only „recycled content“ can mean any amount of either pre- or post-consumer waste and virgin fibres. Usually products containing high levels of PCR are labelled as such, so that is something you can keep in mind.

And watch out, don’t mistake brown kraft paper to be recycled. It usually comes from old growth forests.*


Eco-friendly paper

This paper is not recycled, but processed environmentally friendly and can be manufactured with either virgin or recycled fibres. Which means a greener version of traditional paper, with a smaller carbon footprint and overall environmental impact.

Environmentally friendly processes include:

  • Sourcing from alternative fibres (e.g. bamboo or hemp)
  • No chlorine bleaching (Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) or Totally Chlorine Free (TCF))
  • Sourced from ecologically managed plantations (certified by e.g. FSC)
  • Minimal emissions and using sustainable energy (Solar, Wind)

There are lots of certifications for recycled and eco-friendly paper, but I only want to list the two most important ones (as far as I understood after my research).

However I found this list where you can look up certifications from all around the world and for all kinds of categories. So have a look if you are interested in doing a little research yourself.


Forest Stewardship Council supports and controls responsible forest management worldwide. There are three categories of FSC certifications.

“FSC®-100%“ (usually not for paper or carton), “FSC®-Mix“ or “FSC®-Recycled“.
The FSC®-Mix category is about virgin fibre paper that contains up to 70% of recycled paper, or can contain amounts of “materials from controlled sources“, which don’t have to be FSC certified.
The FSC®-Recycled certification has to contain 100% of recycled paper and also a high amount of post-consumer-waste.

Blue Angel

Blue Angel is a German certification for environmentally friendly products and services, awarded since 1978.

Certified paper consists of 100% recycled paper, is manufactured without polluting chemicals (PCB and formaldehyde), carcinogenic dyes and coatings and without chloride bleaching. In addition it guarantees economical use of resources and energy consumption and eco-friendly disposal.


To wrap it up,

What is important to responsible paper sourcing?

  1. PCR – post-consumer recycled
  2. ECF (Elemental Chlorine Free), better even TCF (Totally Chlorine Free)
  3. Bamboo, hemp or cotton as alternative fibre source
  4. FSC & Blue Angel certificates

I hope this makes the decision of which paper to use for your printing material a little bit easier.
If you have anything that you think is important to add send me a message!

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