Adding to the problem globally, the appetite for paper products continues to grow in low and middle-income countries that have historically used far less paper than the developed world. At every point in the lifecycle of this essentially disposable material there are options for reducing its impact on the environment and social systems. Specifying environmentally preferable paper products and working with eco-friendly printers can greatly reduce the effect that graphic design has on the planet.
As the first step in the lifecycle of paper, commercial forestry and environmental management have an important role to play in a designers' abilities to work sustainably. One of the most common misconceptions that people have about forestry is that planting new trees is equiva-lent to saving forests. That is simply not the case. In the United States, millions of new treesare planted each year, and annual plantings actually exceed the number of trees cut for indus-trial purposes. However, these plantations do not have the same benefits as natural forests.
Old growth forests, which includes boreal and rainforests, are forests that have been allowed to grow naturally for more than 100 years and have developed into complete ecosystems containing every stage of tree life as well as the appropriate bio-diversity of other plants and animals. Intact forests have not been significantly disturbed by fire, logging, clear cutting, road building, or other human activity. The difference in the environmental and societal benefits of plantation tracks versus old growth forests are enormous, and around the world community groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and governmental organizations are working to minimize the destruction to the remaining intact forests.
The following facts are from a presentation put together by George Milner, senior vice president of environmental affairs at Mohawk Paper:
- The countries emitting the most carbon into the atmosphere from tropical deforestation are Brazil, Indonesia, Burma, Mexico, and Thailand.
- Tree plantations host about 90 percent fewer species than the forests that preceded them.
- About 71 percent of the world's paper supply is not made from timber harvested at tree farms but from forest-harvested timber, from regions with ecologically valuable, biologically diverse habitat.
- The impact the paper industry has on land use (deforestation primarily in tropical rainforests) currently constitutes about 30 percent of CO² emissions traceable to human activity. At least 37.5 million acres of rainforests are lost annually.
Forestry and Global Warming
Though protection of natural habitats and endangered species are compelling arguments for sustainable forestry, the emergence of global climate change as a pivotal issue has led to an increased focus on preservation of old growth forests. Intact forestlands act like giant natural carbon traps (storing between 62 and 78 percent of terrestrial biospheric carbon, which is more than any other ecosystem) and the destruction and deforestation of these areas releases large amounts of CO² into the atmosphere. In addition to the carbon dioxide that trees take in, the rich organic matter found in forests (including fallen branches, leaves, and rich soil) stores CO² as long as it remains undisturbed. Each year an area of tropical forests equivalent to the size of New York state are felled and burned. CO² emissions generated by deforestation make up 20 percent of the annual total, a fact that only intensifies the need for responsibly sourced forest products. It would be unfair to blame commercial logging for all occurrences of deforestation. In some cases forests are cut and burned so that native populations can use the land for agricultural purposes, and the growing demand for land by urbanized populations also contributes to the destruction of natural forest habitats.
Why Tree Fiber Is Still Needed
It might seem that discontinuing the use of virgin fiber (fiber that comes directly from its organic source) in paper production would be the best way to combat deforestation and illegal logging. Unfortunately, there is not enough recycled waste paper to satisfy global demands nor has any other agricultural crop proved to be a viable alternative to fiber from wood sources. For the foreseeable future, there will continue to be a need for forest products from virgin sources.
If conducted in a sustainable manner, the impacts of commercial forestry can be greatly reduced. Sustainable forestry is a management system that works to maintain a full range of economic societal and environmental values. Choosing paper and timber products from sustainably managed forests that are independently certified using a chain of custody system is the best way for graphic designers to support the environmental and social systems that are found in healthy forests.
What is Sustainable Forestry According to Rainforest Alliance
Sustainable forestry provides a way of using trees and non-timber forest products to meet people's ever-increasing need for lumber, paper, and other products, without degrading forest ecosystems. Sustainable forestry is a process by which companies adopt more responsible practices: They increase protection of soils, waterways, and wildlife, and they treat workers and neighboring communities fairly. Sustainable forestry ensures that forestlands retain their economic value for the long term.
Chain of Custody
"Chain of custody" refers to a system of reporting and assessment used to verify that a product has been properly handled and produced, from its origins to the consumer. Essentially a tracking system, chain of custody certifications and reports usually occur in writing and are independently checked by third party organizations with experts who can ensure that a company or product meets specified criteria. In addition to markings or labels that may be put onto a product, the certifying body can provide documentation that a product or service has been tracked (in the case of paper from sustainably managed forests) and meets the requirements that the organization or certifying body stipulates.
While numerous trade organizations and governmental bodies may regulate or certify forest products, the most respected and widely recognized international certification body is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC uses accredited third party certifiers to assess the environmental performance of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and printers against FSC's performance standards. Using a chain of custody system, FSC bases its assessment on ten principles and criteria for forest management that were developed collaboratively by foresters, forestry companies, consumer and retail companies, environmental and social organizations, and community forestry groups. FSC works with partners around the world to ensure that forest ecosystems remain intact even after an area is logged. It does not certify large-scale logging practices such as clear cutting.
The Need for Sustainable Forestry
Rainforest Alliance works with businesses, local communities, and governmentalorganizations to promote responsible forest practices. Through its accrediting body, Smart Wood, Rainforest Alliance works in fifty-eight countries as a certifier for FSC and tries to increase global demand for certified forest products.
Liza Murphy, senior manager of marketing and business development at Rainforest Alliance, says that with sustainable forestry, "one can enhance the economic value of a forest by minimizing the environmental impacts and enhancing the social good." She says that FSC is an improvement over other certifications. "There is no other standard that is as vigorous," she says, "FSC is the standard; it is global and has truly integrated the social component in sustainable forestry." Rainforest Alliance helps small community-based enterprises participate in the FSC certification system and enter the global marketplace.
Murphy underscores that, "If you are talking about sustainability, you aren't just talking about the environment." When asked about the higher price premiums that sometimes go with FSC certified or postconsumer recycled paper, Murphy says that for the most part, "The price premium has mostly gone away. However, once FSC paper ends up at themarket price, noncertified producers will have pressure to bring prices down." If makers of noncertified paper lower prices, then FSC may still end up costing more. Murphy says, "Price is only an issue in the absence of value," and that certified products "bring peaceof mind."
Certifications and Environmental Labeling
Without proper labeling and certification, it is difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to know whether they are really getting environmentally preferable products. Independent third party certification is the most reliable way for manufacturers and customers to make responsible purchasing decisions. Certifications such as the International Organization for Standardization's (ISO), and the European Union's Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), FSC, and Green e provide guarantees that products or manufacturing processes meet a strict set of criteria. Though well-meaning industry trade groups make information available to consumers, it is easy to overlook or be confused by data and/or advice that comes from organizations with ties to industry. Meredith Christiansen, product manager at Neenah Paper, says that businesses are just as happy to have certifications as consumers. "Third party certifiers help level the playing field," she explains. "They ensure that everyone is measuring themselves against the same standards, and they provide customers with a way to assess quality and measure our products against someone else's." Once you become familiar with the most common eco-labels and certifications, it is easy to investigate which systems most closely fit the criteria that you and your client are targeting.
International Organization of Standards (ISO)
ISO is a non-governmental organization made up of a network of the national standards institutes of 157 countries, which all participate in the development of international market-driven standards for industry.
ISO 9000 and 14000 are quality and environmental management standards that a company may choose to adopt. A company's performance is evaluated against ISO's conformity assessment. ISO 9000 means that the organization in question has committed to enhance customer satisfaction by meeting customer and applicable regulatory requirements. ISO 14000 is a family of certifications that mean that the organization or company is committed to minimizing the harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities and continually improving its environmental performance. www.iso.org
The Spanish Forest in Ontario, Canada
Based in Montreal, Canada, Domtar is the largest producer of uncoated freesheet papers in North America and a leading manufacturer of pulp. Launched in 2005, Domtar's EarthChoice line is supported with logos from the FSC and Rainforest Alliance. The management practices for thirteen million of the company's twenty-two million acres of forestland in Canada and the United States are certified by the FSC. Since Domtar controls both forests and paper production it can transparently track its products from tree to consumer. The company works ahead of regulations and with NGO's to continually increase the percentage of its forests that are sustainably managed, and is therefore able to offer more environmentally-preferable products to consumers.
Domtar's commitment to sustainability was reinforced when the company observed a shift in the marketplace from tangible to intangible value. Lewis C. Fix, director of business development at Domtar says that seeing other companies' stocks plummet due to social or environmental challenges was a wake-up for many corporations and prompted Domtar to analyze its own supply chain for similar risks. The company found that independently certifying its facilities and forestry practices was the best way to mitigate risk and gain access to new markets. Subsequently, Domtar developed a relationship with Monte Hummel, president of World Wildlife Fund-Canada (WWF), which led to a signed commitment to work with WWF and Rainforest Alliance (an FSC accrediting body) to certify that all of Domtar's forest holdings were being sustainably managed. Fix has observed that even in the past two and a half years there has been an increased demand for its FSC-certified products, and the company has responded by doubling the number of grades in the product line that carry FSC certification. "When we have enough fiber, we prefer to convert a whole product line but when we don't have enough we convert what we can," Fix says. "Either way, we keep the products priced competitively."
FSC Paper Madeby Domtar
Tons of FSC-certified paper produced by Domtar, per year.
Egmont UK Grading System
When Egmont UK, the second largest publisher of children's books in the United Kingdom, was asked where the paper used to print their books came from, they found that the issue was more complicated than they anticipated. An evaluation of Egmont's paper sourcing found that a single sheet used in one of Egmont's many titles, could contain several pulps, each of which might have been sourced from forests in different parts of the world.
In 2003, the company partnered with environmental consultants Acona to create the Egmont Grading System, a tool that was designed to help eliminate Egmont's use of papers containing fiber from questionable or illegal sources. Egmont asked their suppliers (mostly printers) to evaluate the stocks that were used to print Egmont's products with the new grading system. Sam Mawson, project controller at Egmont says, "We decided that evolution rather than revolution was the best way to approach the issue. Keeping our key print suppliers on board was vital to the success of the project. Anything too immediate would have jeopardized their support." Nevertheless, Egmont made it clear that compliance and cooperation were a must. "We explained to them that this was the way we were moving and that if they wanted to continue to work with us then they would have to be on board. Since this issue had been around for a while, most of our key suppliers were thankful that someone was offering them a solution." In addition to only using papers that reached at least a grade 3 on the scale, Egmont also began to print a small but increasing number of titles on FSC-certified or recycled stock. In June 2007, Alison Kennedy, Egmont's production director, approached a number of fellow U.K. publishers to explore the idea of working together to increase the use of preferential paper in the industry. In September 2007, Publishers database for Responsible Environmental Paper Sourcing (PREPS) was formed with a coalition of companies that together make up 35 percent of the publishing market in the U.K. Using the grading system originally developed by Acona and Egmont, PREPS provides members with objective information about paper through a web-based, password enabled database. Simon Thresh, senior partner at Acona, explains, "The intention is for PREPS to make life easier for everyone, with less duplication of effort by members and more consistency in the questions that are being asked of printers, merchants, and paper companies."
Egmont Paper Grading System
Egmont grades paper using a 1 to 5 criteria system, the company will only purchase paper that receives a grade of 3 or above. In 2006, Egmont used approximately 5,000 tons of paper, of that amount 70 percent was a grade 3 or 4, and 30 percent was grade 5.
5: Meets FSC requirements and can be labeled as such
4: Includes FSC and recycled content but may require effort to be labeled
3: All material is sourced from legal origins with reasonable amountsof data
2: Source of material is under review and/or there is insufficient data
1: Unknown or suspect material from unwanted sources
For the full Egmont Paper Grading Guide or for full explanation of how the company grades paper, refer to the "Egmont Paper Purchasing Standard" at www.egmont.com.