Paper and the Environment: Part 1
The paper you hold in your hands when
reading a book, magazine, or newspaper can have a multitude
of effects on the environment, depending on how it was made
and how it will be used. First of all, making paper uses
a huge amount of water. This in itself can damage natural
habitat and threaten fish populations by lowering the water
levels and changing the water temperature near paper mills.
In addition, greenhouse gases are released during papermaking
due to the huge consumption of oil and electricity. The
reduction in forestland that provides the resources for
papermaking also accelerates global warming and destroys
plant and animal habitat and biodiversity. And the bleaching
process used to brighten paper releases chlorine, a toxin
that poisons the environment.
What can be done to minimize the environmental
impact of papermaking? Three viable alternatives are to
reduce consumption, recycle paper, and make paper from sustainable,
One way to use less paper is to
clean your mailing list to reduce the number of publications
you will need to print. This means making sure that every
address is complete and accurate so all copies of your brochure
or catalog reach their intended recipients.
Printing on both sides of the sheet
is another way to reduce paper consumption, as is reducing
the size of your publication’s margins.
Using lighter paper and reducing the
trim size of a publication are two more ways to conserve
paper. Consider moving from a 70# sheet to a 60# sheet,
or making a publication “self-cover” (using
the same stock for the cover and the text). Not only will
you conserve resources, but you will also save money on
postage. Shaving even a quarter-inch from the trim size
of a periodical can make a huge difference in both paper
usage and postage.
Recycling paper makes sense both environmentally
and economically. Paper is one of the most expensive
components of a print job. Making virgin paper uses a huge
amount of energy (from the burning of nonrenewable fossil
fuels). Making paper from paper saves time, water, and fossil
fuels, and minimizes the bleaching needed to whiten a printing
sheet. As a result, fewer toxins are released into the environment.
Environmentally Friendly Sustainable Materials
Making environmentally friendly paper means using
methods that are less toxic to the environment and components
that do not deplete the finite supply of certain raw materials.
One approach is to request paper
brightened without chlorine, specifically elemental chlorine-free
(ECF) and totally chlorine-free (TCF) paper. These types
of papers are made by using oxygen and hydrogen peroxide
to bleach the wood pulp. Specifying papers produced with
mechanical (groundwood) pulp instead of bleached kraft pulp
is another alternative.
Keep in mind that paper does not have
to be made from wood. The finest bond letterhead paper is
made from cotton. Other fibers that can be made into paper
include kenaf, hemp, denim, old paper money, and even banana
peels. These substances yield more pulp than trees do from
a given amount of land. Fewer chemicals are needed to guard
against pests and disease and to turn them into pulp. In
addition, they use less energy over a shorter period of
time for the actual paper manufacturing. Some alternative
fibers such as kenaf also grow faster than trees, allowing
for quick replenishment.
Remember, though, that since
producing paper in this manner has not yet caught on widely,
these papers are often still more expensive than virgin
paper. As environmentally sensitive consumers increase demand,
production will increase, causing costs to drop.
When developing conference or educational
materials, you often must group together a series of pages
to allow for easy access to a single section. Producing
a three-ring binder with a bank of tab dividers is one solution;
other solutions include producing spiral-bound books, plastic-coil-bound
books, or GBC-bound books. All of these mechanical bindings
have one thing in common: they’re labor intensive
and therefore very expensive to produce (up to two-thirds
of the total cost of a book).
A less expensive, but still efficient,
alternative to mechanical binding and tab dividers is a
“bleed tab.” In this design option, a block
of ink with the tab text surprinted on it (or reversed out
of it) starts within the “live-matter” area
of the page and then bleeds off the page. Each successive
page within that section of the book will have the same
box of color extending off the edge of the page and the
same text reversed out of the box. When a printed and bound
book produced in this way (with no physical tabs, but instead
with banks of bleed tabs) is turned on its side, it will
look as though a marker had been drawn along the edge of
the pages, clearly delineating the range of pages within
each section. This can dramatically reduce the cost of print
production, since your only added expense is the bleed.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]