Recycled Paper (CJN June 2011)

This "Sustainable Jew" article originally appeared in the Canadian Jewsih News June 10, 2011

Recycle, reduce, reuse. Last month, my column discussed the challenge of recycling of paper on which Jewish holy words are written. This month, we will focus on some key considerations to help you make sustainable choices about what paper you use as well as how you use, and eventually reuse, that paper.

The three actions mentioned above— choice, use and reuse—help influence what paper options are available in the marketplace. As such, the actions of individuals, organizations and corporations can have a profound influence on the environment.

In business, as in life, decisions are made by weighing the costs and benefits of an action. When choosing what paper to use, whether to use it and how to dispose of it, individuals and organizations usually consider are the cost of the paper in specific dollar terms followed by the look and feel of the paper, and the ability for a printer, copier or fax machine to use that paper.

In addition to pure cost and ease of availability, many individuals and companies now add an “environmental” component to their cost-benefit analysis. A good place to start when making an environmentally conscious choice in paper product is to look for an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) logo on the product.

The FSC is an international certification and labeling organization dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world's forests. It tracks fibers from certified forests all the way to the consumer through the FSC Chain of Custody system. When you purchase FSC-certified paper, you ensure that the value of conserving forests is maintained, that the rights of aboriginal peoples and local communities are respected, that waterways are safeguarded and that natural wildlife habitats & species are protected.

Choosing what paper to use, however, should be more than a quick scan for an FSC logo: any decision should consider how and where the paper is made.

By placing paper into a blue-box for recycling, you do several things. First, you divert waste away from landfills. This reduces the amount of waste that needs to be burned, buried or stored. Second, you reduce the need to create more paper. As less water and energy are required to create “new” paper from recycled parts—normally 100% post-consumer waste—compared to virgin fiber from newly harvested trees, you reduce the need to use non-renewable, or long-renewable resources.

Even though this recycled paper may be slightly more expensive, due to higher manufacturing costs, many organizations are willing to pay more for this paper to avoid risk to their reputation, especially if it allows them to align their actions with their personal or organizational beliefs. What type of message would you be sending to the community if you or your organization were fundraising to plant trees, but your communications were printed on non-FSC certified paper with no recycled content?

Your decision on paper procurement may come down to a budgetary decision, but increasingly forward thinkers are examining their environmental footprint. By understanding available paper options, considering the full lifecycle of printing needs and reducing paper consumption you can be true to your personal or organizational beliefs, remain within your budget and reduce environmental impact..

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