by Wendy Gordon
Way to go, Mr. President! You had the beautiful commemorative invitations to the Inauguration printed on FSC certified and 100 percent recycled paper. You hadn’t taken office yet and already you were setting a great example of appreciation and respect for our planet’s natural resources.
Processing paper from virgin timber is tough on the environment. Clear cutting can destroy wildlife habitat and increases erosion and sedimentation of streams. The cut wood is then ground, pressed, dried and chlorine bleached, producing over 1,000 different organochlorines, including the carcinogen dioxin, and mercury. The process also requires large amounts of energy and contributes as much as 9 percent of total manufacturing carbon emissions in the U.S. At the other end of its lifecycle, much of the paper we buy ends up in landfills.
The good news is paper recycling in the U.S. is on the rise, and choosing the right paper for your kitchen, bathroom or home office can help save forests and conserve energy, too. A ton of recycled paper saves 3,000 to 4,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity compared with producing a ton of virgin-fiber paper.
And it’s now widely available. You can find high-content recycled paper in most office supply stores, including giants like Staples and Office Depot. Do pay attention to the labels and choose paper that’s processed chlorine free (PCF) and with a high post-consumer waste (PCW) content–up to 100 percent. Green Guide recommends Mohawk’s white Option and colored Via fine papers, made with 100 percent PCW using renewable wind energy ($22-$25/200 sheets; www.mohawkpaper.com, 800-843-6455) and Neenah Paper’s Environment and Classic writing and printing papers ($21.95-$26.95/250 sheets; www.neenahpaper.com, 888-558-5061) and Wausau’s Exact Eco 100 copy paper ($4/500 sheets; www.wausaupapers.com) are both 100 percent PCW and PCF.
Of course, reducing use is best. As a technically savvy President, you will appreciate the many simple ways to dramatically reduce office paper use altogether: Make sure everyone at home and in the office chooses the double-sided printing option on their printers, uses the blank side of scrap paper for printing drafts and distributes as many documents electronically as possible.
Cut back on paper in the kitchen as well by using cloth towels and napkins instead. But if you want to keep a roll of paper towels on hand for real messes, consider Marcal Paper’s PCF paper towels, over 60 percent PCW, which can be found in stores nationwide ($2.99/3-pack; www.marcalpaper.com, 201-796-4000). For bathroom and facial tissue, try Cascade’s North River PCF with 80 percent PCW (from $1.39; www.cascades.com; 819-363-5100). Whole Foods’ store brand 365 Everyday Value toilet paper, napkins and paper towels are all PCF and up to 95 percent PCW ($1.69-$2.99/pack; www.wholefoodsmarket.com).