One of the easiest ways that nonprofit communicators can go green in their operations is to use recycled paper all the time — in your office equipment and office supplies like folders and when you buy print. Long gone are the excuses about paper quality and, for the most part, price (or at least they should be, if you shop around a bit.)

There’s just one small problem. Lots of nonprofits like to include “Printed on Recycled Paper” on their documents to promote their environmentally sensitive behavior when they, in fact, have no idea what that phrase really means and aren’t actually using 100% recycled paper. Let me explain.

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims, which were published a decade ago, if you claim that your document is “Printed on Recycled Paper,” you are saying that it is printed on paper containing 100% recycled fiber. However lots of the office and printing papers on the market today only contain 30% recycled fiber. If you are using those papers, you should say, “Printed on Paper with 30% Recycled Fiber” or something along those lines.

I personally buy and highly recommend Staples® 100% Recycled Copy Paper, so I can include “Printed on Recycled Paper” in my documents without further details. To be technically correct about this particular paper, I could say, “Printed on 100% Post-Consumer Recycled Paper,” which is even better from an environmental perspective.

When something is called “recycled,” that material can come from two sources: Pre-Consumer, which is manufacturing scraps, and Post-Consumer, which is all the paper that we put in the recycling bin at home and work. Manufacturers commonly recycle their own discards for economic reasons, so that recovered paper isn’t as important for consumers like us to focus on as the post-consumer material. The post-consumer material is the paper that we are trying to keep out landfills and incinerators and want to be made into new products; therefore, we should look for post-consumer content when we buy recycled products.

When you are buying office paper or talking to your printer about paper choices, ask for the total recycled content and the highest amount of post-consumer content that you can, too. If price is a concern, look for paper that is 100% recycled, with 30% post-consumer content. Interested in learning more about environmental paper choices? Check out the Conservatree website.

This post is my contribution to Blog Action Day.

Related Posts