Tree free paper? Reducing the environmental impact of running a business.|| January 11 2017
As an eco friendly jewelry designer, I’ve worked hard over the years to reduce the environmental impact of Sundrop Jewelry itself. Using recycled sterling silver, colors made from recycled glass bottles, and, of course, using sunshine to melt the glass! This week on the blog I’m digging deep into the environmental impact of plain old printer paper.
There's no way around it - running a business requires paper. Lots of it. No matter how much we try to "go digital" there are still packing slips & invoices, cover letters and paperwork to print, sign and return... And that’s not taking into account the shipping boxes and padded mailers, or the business cards, catalogs, jewelry cards, postcards, and more that I get professionally printed (on recycled paper, whenever I can). Today, I’m only talking about the paper that goes through my own home/business printer machine. (Since it is a home/business printer, the occasional coloring page for my preschooler does come out, but mainly it’s business. :) )
According to Wikipedia:
"Pulp and paper is the third largest industrial polluter to air, water, and land in both Canada and the United States… Worldwide, the pulp and paper industry is the fifth largest consumer of energy, accounting for four percent of all the world's energy use. The pulp and paper industry uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry.”
Some of that pollution comes from logging, whether in old growth forests or FSC certified managed forests. Some of the pollution happens when transporting the logs, and some at the pulp and paper mills.
But that’s for non-recycled paper. It might seem that with apparently-ubiquitous paper recycling, recycled paper doesn’t have much of an environmental impact. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. "Even paper recycling can be a source of pollution due to the sludge produced during de-inking,” (Wikipedia) although "recycled pulp requires 64 percent less energy than virgin pulp.” (National Geographic)
A new product has come out in recent years that addresses at least some of these issues: tree-free paper made from agricultural waste. The printer paper I’ve been using for the last year, made by TreeFrog, is made from the waste fibers from sugar cane and bamboo processing. While it doesn’t solve all the problems, it does have an effect.
- No logging? - check.
- No energy-intensive pulping? - check, it’s already been done to extract the sugar.
- Chlorine bleach free? - check.
Plus, it reduces pollution by reusing the waste sugar cane fibers that were traditionally burned or landfilled. Best of all, it can be recycled along with all other office paper.
While I wasn’t able to find hard numbers on the environmental impact of making TreeFrog paper, my guess is that it is about equivalent to using 100% recycled paper. It doesn’t jam my printer, and it looks and feels like normal bright white paper - if you've bought any of my jewelry in the past year, you've seen it and didn't even notice the difference!