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No-Brainer Way to Green Your Business

Businesses and individuals can make a difference by choosing sustainably sourced paper products.

As oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico and Hooters girls contribute to the solution by donating pantyhose, my thoughts turn to environmental paper certifications.

Okay, it’s not going to solve the devastating loss to wildlife, eco-systems, and local economies along our shores, but unfortunately, I can’t do anything about that from where I sit. But I can make good choices in my own life and my own business to try to act responsibly in my own sphere of influence.

This is where environmental certifications come in. There are lots of them. Some relate to chemicals. Others to energy use. Others to the lifecycle of papermaking. And so on.

In the paper industry, for example (which impacts everything from the paper you buy for marketing, book printing, magazine and catalog printing, school supplies, even your children’s drawing pads), environmental certifications go beyond the papermaking process look at logging practices, including the impact on indigenous peoples. Certifications ensure that the logging and social impacts show sensitivity to a full range of sustainable issues (economic, social, and environmental), as well.

Among the available paper certifiers are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), currently offering the most recognizable certification; the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (FSI), whose certification addresses North American forests; and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), an umbrella organization that recognizes several dozen national and regional forest certification systems.

Purchasing paper with these certifications assures you that the paper has been produced using fiber that was obtained legally, through well-managed forests, and using sustainable forestry management practices.

Certified papers are limited in availability, so unlike “plain old” recycled papers, which are increasingly comparable in cost to virgin fiber, there can be a premium for them. As demand grows, however, more forests will be certified and cost premiums may come down.

It’s one way you can make a difference.

Image source: (PEFC website)

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.


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  1. Buying certified paper is kind of like playing with a double edge sword. Yes certification is good and when we buy a product with a trusted certification we know that the product is being produced in a responsible manor. But the other side of the sword is that when we do place a certification onto a product we essentially mark that product as a brand name and attach a higher price tag to it. No matter how hard we try business and corporate society will be run by greed and where someone can increase profit margins they will do so. I guess what I am trying to say is it comes back to the responsibility of the consumer to purchase the right product. Yes certification is good but it means higher cost compared to buying recycled paper. Remember going "GREEN" should not leave your wallet empty.

    • Great point, Chris. I think it's also important to remember that there are lots of ways to "green" print marketing beyond environmental certifications and recycled paper. You can green your business by cleansing your database (removing undeliverable addresses), using print personalization (reducing your page volumes only to those necessary and relevant to the recipient), and printing on a just-in-time basis, among others. I actually released a report on this topic called "Greening Print Marketing: A Practical Guide" ( There are a lot of common sense ways we can green our marketing beyond the obvious hot-button issues.

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