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Beyond ‘Recycle, Reuse, Renew’ – Sending the Right Message With Your Green Packaging

What is green printing really all about?

When we think ‘green printing’ the terms ‘recycled’, FSC Certified, and ‘soy inks’ come to mind right? But is that all there is? Are these things really enough? Did you know that one ton of recycled paper still consumes up to four trees, 18,000 BTU’s of energy, creates up to two tons of solid waste, and creates thousands of gallons of contaminated waste water? What about FSC? Certainly FSC is an important designation and diverting pulp production from old growth and irresponsibly managed forests is critical, but at what point will we begin to tip the balance of FSC paper production versus FSC forestry growth toward the negative. And what about soy inks? Well, soy inks have been used by offset printers for years but are they really beneficial for flexographic printers to use on your labels/stickers, tags, and packaging- nope! The point here is that print buyers, green marketers, brand owners, designers and printers in general have gotten lazy. It’s so easy to say- ‘Green, oh, we use recycled paper, and by the way… please recycle this packaging when you’re through with it.’ We’re focused on ‘recycled’ and recycling because it’s easy, cheap and everybody understands it (well, sort of… but that’s a different article/post!) What I’d like to see is brand owners, printers, and consumers focus in on the ‘green issues’ that are going to matter most going forward, sustainability (sourcing print and packaging from more abundant, renewable resources), and carbon footprint.

Sustainable Paper Options vs Traditional Tree-Pulp Papers

Tree-free papers made from rotting plant waste such as banana, papaya and coconut trees, bamboo, and bagasse are an option here. There are a few companies that have devoted decades to tree-free paper production, and though the performance of these papers as a label/packaging material is limited in some cases they have successfully replaced tree-pulp papers. Have a look at one sustainable option from Pure Labels and dig into Label Impressions, Inc. site for more options for sustainable, tree-free label papers that perform. Stone paper(rock paper) made from natural chalk (calcium carbonate), a renewable (yes renewable- I’ll expect some opposition/comments on this one) and abundant resource is one of the high performing options for green printing and packaging materials with a superior sustainability story. FiberStone(TM) tree-free paper from Natural Source Printing, Inc. is the more popular, performing paper in this category and has been used on wide variety of printing and packaging projects from tree-free gift bags/shopping bags, to printed folding cartons, waterproof maps, books, brochures, annual reports and green labels.

Carbon Footprint– ‘What Does it Actually Take to Produce and Supply Your ‘Green’/Recycled Paper?

In this writer’s opinion, this is the ‘real’ issue that printers, print buyers, marketers and ‘green’ consumers need to be concerned with. When the folks at Natural Source Printing began sourcing eco-friendly paper options they took a good hard look at carbon footprint (which is why FiberStone” rock paper became one of the featured products of Natural Source.) By using recycled (post consumer waste) papers we certainly preserve our most significant carbon storage resources but at what point will our forests’ carbon storage capacity fail to keep up with our carbon producing activities? Sure shipping from overseas adds to the carbon footprint though not as much as you would think- email me for detailed info on the carbon footprint statistics of overseas shipping), but pulp production and processing of recycled fibers is the real culprit here. Did you know that to produce one ton of recycled paper four trees are consumed and up to 22,000 BTU’s of energy are used up? This massive consumption contributes to an enormous amount of Co2 emitted into our atmosphere. You can see how an argument can and should be made for using low carbon footprint materials (lower energy consumption) over recycled papers for printing and packaging.

What Can I Do??

So what’s next? What as a green consumer, print buyer, marketing manager, sustainability director, or green printer should I be doing to help create awareness for the other two sides of the ‘green’ story ? You can start by educating yourself, your employer/corporation, your customers, and friends and family about the other threats to a cleaner planet- carbon emissions and depletion of non-renewable natural resources. You can choose to quit ‘buying into’ the oversimplified ‘recycle, reuse, renew’ mantra and dig deeper! You can take responsibility by educating yourself and others about these concerns and the options that help counteract them. Shouting ‘Go Green’ isn’t enough folks- dig deeper, learn…and teach!

*Note- Jeff Salisbury (that’s me) is President of Label Impressions, Inc. and has worked with Natural Source Printing, Inc. on the development of FiberStone(TM) label paper for the last eighteen months. While I’d certainly appreciate you checking out our websites and using either or both companies for your green labels and packaging this article is primarily aimed at raising awareness of the ‘other’ green issues. Quite simply, I got tired of hearing and seeing ‘Printed on Recycled Paper’ everywhere and decided the time has come for a ‘call to action’! Thanks for listening, and commenting! I can be contacted directly at:

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