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TWOSIDES_1©Matthew HamsIn 2013, 72% of Americans surveyed said that print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate when produced and used responsibly (Toluna and Two Sides, 2013). This was great news and indicated that many people understand the sustainable nature of paper.

Have you ever thought about what defines a sustainable product? A bit of research on this topic shows that the key features include:

  • made from a renewable resource
  • re-usable and recyclable
  • made using renewable energy

…the exact features of forest products, like wood and paper! Here are key points to remind us of the great features of print and paper:

1- Paper supports sustainable forest management. The North American paper industry promotes sustainable forestry and depends on sustainable forest growth to provide a reliable supply of wood fiber. Paper manufacturers do this by encouraging forest sustainability through their purchase and use of certified wood fiber and by promoting sustainable forest management policies and practices. By providing a dependable market for responsibly grown fiber, the industry also encourages landowners to continue managing their forestland instead of selling it for development or other non-forest uses. Read more.

2- Sustainable forest management benefits people and the planet. Collecting used paper and recycling it into new products is good for the environment. However, the wood fibers in paper can be recycled only about five times before they get too weak and break down. That’s why we need fresh fiber harvested from responsibly managed forests, too. Using fresh fiber creates a sustainable cycle of high-quality recyclable material to continually replenish recycled fiber. Without fresh wood fiber, recycled fiber would quickly run out and most paper production would cease within months. Read more.

TWOSIDES_3©Matthew Hams3- Paper is one of the most recycled products in the world. Paper is the most recycled product in the world. Since we began tracking how much paper gets recycled back in 1990, the recovery rate for used paper has increased dramatically. We’re not only recovering more, but we now know how to get the most environmental and economic benefits from using recycled paper in new products. Read more.

4- Much of the energy used in pulp and papermaking is renewable. Nearly two-thirds of the energy used by U.S. pulp and paper mills is self-generated using renewable, carbon-neutral biomass in high-efficiency combined heat and power (CHP) systems.   In fact, the U.S. paper and forest products industry produces and uses more renewable energy than all other industrial sectors combined. Read more.

5- The carbon footprint of paper is not as high as you think. For paper products, the carbon footprint includes all greenhouse gas emissions from harvesting trees through the manufacturing process to use and disposal or recycling. A look across this entire life cycle shows that paper’s carbon footprint can be divided into three basic elements: greenhouse gas emissions, carbon sequestration and avoided emissions.   Each of these elements is influenced by important characteristics that make paper’s carbon footprint smaller than might be expected:   it’s made from a renewable resource that stores carbon, it’s manufactured using mostly renewable energy and it’s recyclable. Read more.

6- Electronic media also has environmental impacts that cannot be ignored. Rather than asking which is better, paper or electronic communication, we should be working to determine which combination of the two has the least impact on the environment while best meeting social and economic needs.   As the population and resulting demand on resources continues to grow, a sustainable future will necessarily depend more heavily on the use of renewable and recyclable products and less on non-renewable materials and the use of fossil fuel energy. Read more.

7- “Go Green – Go Paperless” messages can be misleading and may not meet best practices for environmental marketing. Many leading U.S. companies are urging their customers to go paperless with claims that paperless bills, statements and other electronic communications save trees, are “greener” or otherwise protect the environment. Beyond the fact that “go paperless” marketing messages ignore the highly sustainable nature of print on paper – it comes from a renewable resource, is recyclable and recycled more than any other commodity in the U.S. and has great carbon characteristics – these claims fail to meet the most basic tests for acceptable environmental marketing as outlined by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and others. Read more.

8- Paper is one of the few truly sustainable products. Paper is made from a natural resource that is renewable, recyclable and compostable. These features, combined with the paper industry’s advocacy of responsible forestry practices and certification, use of renewable, carbon-neutral biofuels and advances in efficient papermaking technology, make paper a product with inherent and unique sustainable features. Read more.

There you have it. Each one of the above paragraphs links to our more detailed fact sheets packed with great information and backed-up with verifiable evidence and scientific reports.

Happy Earth Day!

Phil Riebel
President, Two Sides North America

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fsjpegWhen it comes to the sustainability of the Graphic Communications Value Chain, it’s important to separate verifiable facts from opinions and misleading information. Fortunately, Two Sides (www.twosides.us) has the resources that can help.

Two Sides has posted nine new 2-page Fact Sheets related to the sustainability of print and paper. Written in clear, easy-to-understand language and including citations to verifiable sources, these Fact Sheets make it easy to understand that print, paper, and packaging have a great environmental story to tell.

Below you’ll find a quick summary of each of the nine new Fact Sheets, plus a link leading to the fact sheet itself.  Please feel free to share these valuable resources with colleagues, customers, students and local media. You can be part of Two Sides’ efforts to end the harmful practice of “greenwashing” (using inflated, inaccurate, or misleading data to misrepresent environmental performance).  Check out the facts, then click through for the downloadable Fact Sheets:

FACT: “Go Green – Go Paperless” and “Save-a-Tree” claims are misleading and may not meet best practices for environmental marketing.  These marketing messages ignore the highly sustainable nature of print on paper – it comes from a renewable resource, is recyclable and recycled more than any other commodity in the U.S. and has great carbon characteristics. Learn More

FACT: Anti-paper environmental claims are often inaccurate and should be challenged. After research showed that more than half of America’s leading banks, utilities and telecommunications companies are using misleading anti-paper environmental marketing claims, Two Sides began its “myth-busting” campaign. To date, more than 40% of those contacted have eliminated unsubstantiated anti-paper claims from their marketing. Learn More

FACT: E-Media also have environmental impacts. A recent study estimates that developing countries will produce at least twice as much electronic waste (e-waste) as developed countries within the next six to eight years. Uncontrolled toxic emissions can result from the informal recycling practices often used in the developing world; these emissions can include dioxins, furans, and cyanide. Learn More

FACT: The carbon footprint of paper is not as high as you may think. The U.S. forest products industry is a leader in the production of renewable energy, with more than 65% of the on-site energy needed to produce paper products derived from carbon-neutral biomass. Learn More

FACT: Sustainable forest management benefits people and the planet. In addition to replenishing the supply of recycled fiber, the U.S. paper industry’s perpetual use of trees harvested from responsibly managed forests has a host of economic, social and environmental benefits. Learn More

FACT: Paper is one of the most recycled products in the world. In 2012, nearly 51 million tons or 65.1% of the paper used in the United States was recovered for recycling, up 76% since 1990. The industry’s new recovery goal is to exceed 70% by 2020. Learn More

FACT: Most of the energy used to make pulp and paper is renewable. The print and paper industry accounts for only 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions; at a global level, the greenhouse gas emissions from the forest products industry value chain are largely offset by sequestration in forests and forest products. Learn More

FACT: Paper is one of the few truly sustainable products. Paper is made from a natural resource that is renewable, recyclable and compostable; in the United States, paper is recycled more than any other commodity in the municipal solid waste stream, including plastics, glass and metals. Learn More

FACT: Paper supports sustainable forest management. The income U.S. landowners receive for products grown on their land—including wood for papermaking—encourages them to maintain, renew and manage this valuable resource sustainably, instead of converting forestland to non-forest uses. Learn More

Led by sustainable and responsible forestry, paper production and printing, the U.S. Graphic Communications Value Chain is working to ensure that, in a world of scarce resources, print and paper’s unique recyclable and renewable qualities can be enjoyed for generations to come. By sharing these Fact Sheets, you can help Two Sides U.S. and its member companies strengthen the paper, packaging, print, and related industries—and make an important contribution to real environmental sustainability. Find more resources, plus information on how to become a member company, at www.twosides.us.

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bustPut on your dancing shoes and watch our latest animated video that features some great facts and figures about the important role that paper and print media play in an environmentally sustainable world.

Click this link to view the video

This is a great resource for professionals in the Graphic Communications Value Chain who want to share facts and figures, and dispel “greenwashing” myths about print and paper.

ecgrThe video is an animated version of our popular “Eco-Graphic”, a full-color Infographic poster available for download here.  The Eco-Graphic was created by Lynette Maymi, a design professional from Pompano Beach, Florida and winner of the Two Sides Eco-Graphic Challenge.

Thanks again to graphic designer Marco Morales and the Two Sides US sustainability and marketing committees for their great work and input on the video!

Phil Riebel, President, Two Sides U.S.

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Our new web page is up: Responsible Production and Use of Print and Paper

The objective of this resource is to help support a key element of the Two Sides mission which is to “promote the responsible production and use of print and paper”.

Whether you are reading a book or magazine, or writing notes on a piece of paper, the product you are using (print or paper…or both) has had a long and, sometimes complex, life before ending up in your hands.  What you do with it, i.e. keep it or recycle it, will also determine its overall impact on the environment.

This “life cycle” is key to understanding the overall environmental footprint of print and paper products.  The key factors driving this footprint are:

  • Raw material production, including forest management and the collection of recovered paper
  • Pulp and paper manufacturing
  • Printing and converting
  • Disposal and recycling
  • Transportation at various steps of this life cycle

As usual, when we start looking into the life-cycle of products, things get complicated due to the numerous steps and actors involved. 

In the case of paper and print, recycling and ensuring that forests are certified to standards such as SFI and FSC are a few examples of responsible production and use, but these are only the first basic steps in a much larger and complex life cycle.

The life cycle of printing and writing papers (from AF&PA, 2011)

The life cycle of printing and writing papers (from AF&PA, 2011)

Our new webpage outlines the life cycle of print and paper in more detail and the various ways in which producers and buyers can reduce the environmental impacts of their products.  It includes links to the following ten Reference Sheets, which are loaded with examples of topic-specific tools, reports and articles from our member companies, allied organizations and other well-know and credible sources:

  1. The Paper Life Cycle – Resources explaining “life cycle thinking” and how to aim for a continual reduction in the environmental footprint of print and paper.
  2. Sustainable Forest Management – Information on best practices, forest certification and how to curb illegal logging.
  3. Clean Production – Example of best practices for manufacturing pulp and paper, including energy efficiency and water reduction.
  4. Climate Change and Carbon Footprint – Selected examples of how companies can determine their carbon footprint and reduce it, and how climate change creates not only challenges, but opportunities, for print and paper.
  5. Recycling and Use of Recovered Paper – What is sustainable use of recycled fiber? Statistics on fiber use, import and export.
  6. Environmental Reporting – Examples of resources supporting open and transparent sustainability reporting.
  7. Eco-Labels and Environmental Claims – Information to help readers understand the various eco-labels and what is behind them, and to cut through the “greenwashing”.
  8. Guidelines for Responsible Paper Production, Use and Procurement – Guides and tools published by credible organizations to help define responsible procurement, production and use.
  9. Examples of Responsible Paper Procurement Policies – Policy examples from leading companies that are setting the pace for responsible paper procurement.
  10. Environmental Scorecards and Product Declarations – Examples of paper scorecards and declarations used to evaluate the environmental performance of various paper grades.

I invite you to share this information with your co-workers, customers, suppliers and others, and take an active part in the conversation about on the sustainability and value of print and paper.

Two Sides feels that the US Graphic Communications Value Chain has a great story to tell about the responsible production and use of print and paper, and about the perks that this value chain provides our communities.

Phil Riebel
President and COO, Two Sides US

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As little as 10 years ago, sustainable paper procurement policies were rare – crafted by a few forward-thinking companies that traditionally move ahead of the curve on sustainability issues and companies that were publicly engaged by environmental groups.  How times have changed!   Paper consumers, especially large commercial print and paper buyers, are now a driving force in the responsible production, use and disposal of printed media, using sustainable paper procurement policies not only as a tool to green their own supply chains, but also to advocate continuous environmental performance improvement throughout the paper life cycle.

In my experience helping companies develop sustainable paper procurement (SPP) policies, the toughest step is usually getting past the inevitable questions from senior management: “Why do we need an SPP policy and how much will it cost to implement it?”

The “why” is simple.  As global mega-companies like Walmart, Proctor & Gamble and Unilever drive sustainability deep into their supply chains, demonstrating a commitment to responsible sourcing, production, use and disposal is quickly evolving from an option to a requirement for doing business – including paper-related business.  The bottom line: do it now or get left behind.

A sustainable paper procurement policy spells out your company’s commitment and provides an effective way to concisely communicate it to your customers and other stakeholders.  It also provides a framework for delivering on that commitment, guiding your company toward continuous environmental performance improvement and encouraging your paper suppliers to take next steps in their own sustainability.  The ultimate result:  your company contributes not only to its own long-term success, but to real environmental progress!

The “how much” depends on your current practices and programs.  When estimating the cost of putting an SPP policy in place, companies are often surprised to find that they are already doing many of the things a policy will entail, like requiring that all their paper comes from legal sources, that they support third-party forest certification and use only paper that is certified or comes from non-controversial sources, and that their suppliers’ facilities have certified environmental management systems in place.   An SPP policy validates those initiatives already in place and helps focus them in a way that sheds light on opportunities for improvement.

With that said, SPP policies are designed to encourage continuous performance improvement across the paper life cycle, so long-term credibility requires setting some stretch goals.    Some companies include goals in their policy and revise them periodically as appropriate; others develop separate action plans.  Any additional financial commitment, of course, depends on how ambitious the goals are and the path a company chooses for achieving them.

To truly benefit the environment, SPP policies must be life cycle-driven, including common elements related to sustainable forest management and certification, resource conservation and environmental protection in the manufacturing process, energy conservation and greenhouse gas reduction, waste management, recycling and corporate social responsibility.  The specifics, however, can vary widely by company and depend on a variety of factors ranging from an organization’s overall sustainability strategy and supply chain to the grades of paper purchased and end uses.  Once a policy with supporting goals is in place, it’s also important to be transparent in reporting progress.

If your company is ready to develop and implement (or update) an SPP there are lots of resources to help you get started.   One of the best resources is the World Resources Institute’s Sustainable Procurement of Wood and Paper-based Products (Version 3).   Focused on the 10 Things You Should Know about the legal, environmental and social aspects of procurement, this detailed guide is designed specifically for companies that do not have in-house forest and forestry expertise.   For a shorter overview, check out Volume 1 of Sappi’s white paper series, Environmentally Responsible Paper Procurement Policies.

Top 10 things you should know about sustainable procurement of forest products (WRI and WBCSD)Finally, don’t be shy about taking advantage of others’ efforts.  Like any process, developing a sustainable paper procurement policy will be a learning experience.  Talk with people who’ve actually gone through the process and ask lots of questions. While no two companies or policies are exactly the same, hearing the experience of others may spark ideas you wouldn’t have otherwise considered and may help you avoid missteps that could come back to bite you.

Kathi Rowzie is a Two Sides guest blogger and a sustainability communications consultant with The Gagliardi Group in Memphis, Tennessee.

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The topic of using recycled fiber in printing papers is being discussed more actively within the Two Sides network these days due to the notion that “more recycled content in printing papers is better for the environment”.

I would add: “it depends on the situation”.  I say this because generalizing the benefits of recycled fiber use can be misleading due to the many environmental and economic factors at play in the life cycle of paper products.  In other words, wood-based paper grades can be equally or more sustainable if they are being produced responsibly.

We do need to talk about sustainability in this case because buying paper to make printed products involves both economic and environmental considerations. (1)

Recovering and recycling paper products is a good thing.  It reduces waste to landfill and extends the use of a valuable raw material.  In turn, recovered paper should be re-used as a raw material in products in the most sustainable way possible.  That may or may not include high-end printing papers (ex: catalogs and magazines).

There are industry arguments on both sides of the coin.  There are many who say that one of the most sustainable ways to use recovered paper is in lower quality grades of paper (ex: carton board, paperboard) where less processing and no de-inking is needed.  This typically also means less cost and less environmental concerns.  Others point out that high quality recovered paper (if available) should be re-used to make printing papers due to its high content of long (Kraft) fibers.  In either situation, the right conditions must be in place to make it environmentally and economically sustainable.

The environmental footprint of a grade of printing paper depends entirely on its specific life cycle (forestry practices, environmental performance of pulp and paper mills and suppliers, transportation, etc.).  In our industry, many of the environmental indicators associated with this life cycle are measured and reported in terms of emissions to air, water, soil and solid waste to landfill, among many others.  For companies committed to sustainability, tracking these indicators and improving performance is a key method used to reduce the overall environmental footprint of their paper products.

The environmental performance of the pulp and paper industry varies widely between countries, between companies and between manufacturing facilities.  This is because environmental performance depends on the use of best available technology and the commitment to sustainability of a given company or facility.

Each product life cycle is also associated with other elements such as forest biodiversity and the ecosystem services of a well-managed forest (water filtration, air purification and carbon sequestration), recreational benefits, jobs created and community spin-offs from forestry and manufacturing, the cost of de-inked pulp, paper quality considerations, the distance needed to transport recovered paper and de-inked pulp for processing, and more.

Although Life-cycle Assessment (LCA) studies can be useful tools to help understand the environmental footprint of paper products, they have limitations and they cannot consider many of the environmental and economic considerations listed above.  Results should be communicated with caution across product categories and they should not be seen as an indication of overall “sustainability”.

The two graphs below show the variability in solid waste generation from two different types of integrated printing paper mills: ones using wood-based mechanical pulp (left) and ones using de-inked pulp (right).  Each data point (squares and circles) represents a pulp and paper mill site.

rcf

The range, from low to high, is similar in both cases and it is very possible to have an integrated mechanical pulp and paper mill site with better performance than an integrated recycled mill site.  Based on industry benchmarking studies I have participated in, the same is true for other environmental indicators as well.

Another example would be an increased carbon footprint of an office paper grade due to switching from a low-carbon Kraft pulp supply to a de-inked recycled pulp supplier that relies heavily on fossil fuels.  Kraft pulp can have a relatively low carbon footprint due to low reliance on fossil fuels and use of renewable, carbon-neutral energy (biomass and black liquor).  Sappi’s most recent eQ Journal, Rethinking Recycling, also discusses this topic.

The above examples illustrate the potential risks of generalizing the benefits of using recycled fiber without looking into the environmental performance of specific paper products and manufacturers. For certain grades of paper, it can lead to over-stating the environmental benefits of one raw material (recycled fiber) over another (wood fiber) and this appears to contravene the US Federal Trade Commission Green Guides.

My point is that wood-based paper grades can have a lower environmental footprint than grades containing recycled content just because of the specific situation and life cycle that surrounds each paper grade, and vice-versa. One can also be more economical to produce than the other depending on the situation (ex: proximity and cost of fiber).

Recycled fiber and wood fiber from well-managed forests can be equally sustainable raw materials for papermaking.  If we want to evaluate environmental performance, we should be spending less time debating about which fiber type to use and more time measuring real product-specific environmental performance indicators.  Several tools, such as environmental scorecards and declarations, are available to collect specific data on companies, mill sites and paper grades (ex: Environmental Paper Assessment Tool, Paper Profile, WWF Paper Scorecard or customized scorecards).

(1) Sustainability involves three pillars: economic, environmental and social demands.  The simple definition is: “sustainability is improving the quality of human life while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems” (Wikipedia).

Additional recommended reading:

Phil Riebel
President and COO
Two Sides US, Inc.

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The idea of using alternative fibers to make paper isn’t new, but it has regained media attention of late with actor Woody Harrelson promoting Prairie Pulp and Paper, a Canadian venture he co-founded to make paper using wheat straw (the waste from wheat harvests that typically is burned) instead of wood.  See http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2012/10/25/woody-harrelson-paper-plan.html.

Finding an innovative, economical way to convert waste to new, usable products is terrific, and Mr. Harrelson and his partners are to be commended for their Step Forward Paper™.    But please Woody, save the marketing hyperbole for Hollywood.   Calling logging “barbaric” and wishing we would “get to the point where we never use trees to make paper” is a naïve view of papermaking that ignores the science of sustainable forest management and the economic drivers that make paper made from trees one of the most sustainable products on earth.

Mr. Harrelson is quoted as saying that “much of the paper used” is from “threatened and endangered forests.”  That’s simply not true.   Sure, there are a few bad actors in less developed parts of the world, but U.S. paper companies require their wood suppliers – including millions of small, family owned tree farms – to manage their land responsibly.    And the demand for sustainably sourced paper provides an important financial incentive for tree farmers to manage their forestland responsibly rather than selling it off for development – the number one cause of forest loss in the United States according to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

The U.S. paper industry plays a key role, not only in helping landowners learn and implement sustainable harvesting and best management practices, but also in encouraging certification to credible sustainable forest management standards.  In its 2010 Report on Sustainable Forests, the USFS says it’s the “loss of an active forest management focus and the revenue streams that accompany it” – not the paper industry’s sustainable forest management – that “threatens the survival of U.S. forests and their associated ecosystem services.”

Given that more U.S. trees are regenerated than harvested each year, the whole “tree-free paper protects forests” argument just doesn’t hold water.  Besides being made with a renewable resource, wood-based paper is the most recycled commodity in the country – more than plastics, metals and glass – according to the U.S. EPA.    In 2011, some 66.8% of U.S. paper produced was recovered for recycling.   And U.S. paper mills generate about 65% of the energy they use from renewable, carbon-neutral biomass.

To substantiate its claim that “Step Forward™ paper is significantly more sustainable, from an environmental perspective, than the typical North American virgin tree fiber paper types,”  Prairie P&P released the results  of a life cycle assessment (LCA) conducted by Canadian carbon management firm Offsetters.   The wheat-based paper was reported to consume half the energy of North American 100% virgin wood copy papers and released 40% less greenhouse gas emissions.   This is because wheat straw, like most alternative fibers, contains less lignin, the natural glue-like substance that holds the fiber together.   Less lignin, less energy needed to break it down.

There are many issues of concern related to the use of agricultural crop alternatives to wood fiber (the fact that they are monocultures, deplete soil quality, and require intensive management to eliminate competing plants and pests, for example) and about this study in particular.  Instead of using current data on specific paper products, the Offsetters LCA includes secondary data on “typical North American virgin tree fiber paper” from a well-known tool called the Paper Calculator.  This data uses paper industry averages to make generalizations about environmental performance.

In a January 2012 white paper, Effect of Methodology on the Life Cycle Analysis of Paper Products, Professor Richard Venditti of North Carolina State University reviewed several paper LCAs including the conclusions of the Paper Calculator (The Paper Task Force Study) used by Prairie P&P.  He correctly concluded that, “Industry average data are useful for an industry to benchmark its overall performance, but the use of industrial averages of environmental impacts to promote a specific paper product relative to other similar paper products is not reasonable.”   His conclusion is based on the fact that there are very large ranges of environmental performance for one type of paper product from manufacturing site to site.  Due to this large range, “It’s imperative to base environmental claims on site- and product-specific LCAs using established protocols like ISO 14040:2006,” Venditti says.

Furthermore, globally accepted life cycle accounting standards, including the World Resources Institute Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard cited in the Step Forward™ study, admonish those who conduct even the strictest of life cycle assessments not to use results to make generalizations across broad product categories.

My intent here is not to offer a point-counterpoint review of the Step Forward™ study or to in any way suggest that Step Forward™ paper is not a welcome addition in a world that must pursue sustainable, economically viable solutions to meet the needs of a growing population.    If companies like Prairie Pulp and Paper, and more recently Eco-Paper, want to give consumers a wider choice of sustainably produced paper products, that’s great.  But don’t portray the U.S. wood-based paper industry as the great destroyer of the world’s forests in the process.   The facts just don’t support it.

For a good, concise overview of how sustainable forest-based products like paper are encouraging global economic, environmental and social sustainability, take a look at this short video from last year’s Rio+20 conference.  It describes how the sustainable production and consumption of forest-based bio-products “will be a game changer in moving us toward a greener economy.”

Kathi Rowzie is a Two Sides guest blogger and a sustainability communications consultant with The Gagliardi Group in Memphis, Tennessee.

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