Beyond the Recycling Bin
When it comes to the environmental footprint you leave behind in your catalog and direct mail operations, no doubt you want to do the right thing. But understanding the terms of the debate takes a bit of self-education.
“The challenge is moving away from the arena in which we talk only about paper made of post-consumer-waste (PCW) recycled content, to a forum that’s focused on the new idea of the entire lifecycle of paper — from the time the tree is cut to the back door of the printing company,” says Scott Bond, senior vice president for Bulkley Dunton, a New York City-based division of paper distributor xpedx.
To fairly determine the environmental impact of the paper chosen for your catalog, there seemingly are an infinite number of considerations — the amount of recycled content is but one.
Phillipe Riebel, environmental director, North America, UPM-Kymmene, a New Brunswick, Canada-based paper manufacturer, says, “When you buy a ton of paper, you need to know what the environmental load is. What’s the impact on the forest? [What’s the impact] when transporting raw materials to the mill? What about the mill’s performance when it comes to such factors as air emissions? How much [carbon dioxide] is emitted per year? How much water is used to make that ton of paper, and what is the quality of the wastewater?
“After that ton of paper has been made,” Riebel continues, “what’s the environmental impact caused by the printing process and distribution of the catalog you’ve created? Unless you look at the whole lifecycle of the paper, you’re missing out on some very key environmental information,” he notes.
Riebel suggests that, too often, catalogers and other print buyers concentrate exclusively on the amount of recycled fiber used in their papers. But you can purchase paper that doesn’t use any recycled fiber and still has a lower environmental load than a paper made with recycled fiber from a mill that has, for example, obsolete technology, and therefore pollutes the environment more, he notes. “When you use recovered papers, you have to de-ink it, and that produces a lot of sludge. Some mills still [send to] landfills that material. Some modern mills will use it as fuel; they’ll dry and burn it, which is more environmentally sound. This is important to know and only one of the many questions catalogers need to ask.”
Forest certifications can help you ensure that fiber for your catalogs comes from a well-managed forest. There are more than 50 certification systems worldwide, according to Riebel, but those most prevalently recognized in North America are The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Canadian Standards Association and the Sustainable Forest Initiative (see “For More Info”).
FSC certification remains an important factor for L.L. Bean. The Freeport, Maine-based cataloger and environmental proponent reported that it plans to increase the already significant amounts of FSC-certified fibers in its catalogs during the course of the next year.
Catalog Industry Leaders
As Office Depot’s director of environmental affairs, Tyler Elm leads the company’s “Office for the Environment.” Its mission is to “champion the principles of environmental stewardship throughout the company’s global operations,” according to Office Depot’s 2004 Environmental Stewardship Report.
Office Depot, based in Delray Beach, Fla., is one of the preeminent direct marketers to take a proactive approach to preserving the natural environment. “Office Depot uses a variety of [paper] suppliers at this time,” Elm notes. “Many of the decisions regarding supplier selection are based on certification and a demonstrated commitment to addressing environmental issues beyond basic, sustainable fiber management.”
During the past decade, the company has been at work alongside others such as PricewaterhouseCoopers and Norske Canada to develop a Chain of Custody program to ensure that the paper it sells, as well as the paper it consumes, come from responsibly managed forests and/or consist of some recycled content.
To ensure these requirements are met, Office Depot puts its suppliers through fairly rigorous paces, including a pre-screening questionnaire and third-party verification of the suppliers’ environmental record and practices.
The program has enabled the direct marketer to reach its environmental goals. For example, in 2003 Office Depot reportedly used recycled paper (ranging from 10 to 100 percent PCW) in the production of its inserts, print ads, direct mail and catalogs. More specifically, the company used what it deems “environmentally preferable paper” in 81 percent of all direct mail materials and 13 percent of all catalogs during 2003, according to its “2004 Environ-mental Stewardship Report.”
“For 2004, all indications are that the percentages have increased substantially,” Elm suggests. “We’re still crunching the numbers for U.S. operations. That said, Chain of Custody is now just beginning to be implemented, and only in several mills, so we’re not able to measure the annual average content of certified fiber in our 2004 marketing papers. I expect at least two additional mills to come online with Chain of Custody systems in 2005. This will help us further track, measure and verify the amount of certified content in the paper products we use.”
Last January, the company published its Green Book catalog of environmentally friendly products, which Office Depot touts as the only environmentally preferable office products catalog printed on elemental, chlorine-free, 100 percent PCW, recycled paper.
Norm Thompson Outfitters is another cataloger that has taken a lead role in environmental advocacy. As just one example of its ongoing commitment, the Portland, Ore.-based merchant announced in April that it had changed papers for its Sahalie catalog and all corporate order forms to Domtar’s EarthChoice papers. Sahalie, the cataloger noted, was the first of its kind in North America to be printed on paper made with fiber from forests certified to FSC standards.
So why aren’t more catalogers making environmentally sound choices? Officials at Environmental Defense, a New York City-based, nonprofit environmental advocacy note “Recycled paper is not widely used in catalogs, mostly due to outdated notions that it doesn’t look as good, and that it costs a lot more. These myths recently have been proven wrong.”
Whether or not to use recycled papers should be based on more than environmental benefits, suggests Neenah Paper’s Gerry Rector, senior brand manager. “Catalogers also should consider whether designing using recycled papers increases response, makes the product look better, increases time in the hands of consumers or adds to the visual impact of the print. We recommend a trial catalog before deciding.”
Enabling Smart Buying Habits
To best utilize paper lifecycle data — and to make the wisest choices in paper — catalogers need a system for managing environmental data, UPM-Kymmene’s Riebel proffers. “Have an environmental report card that you ask your suppliers to fill out annually. The report card should cover the total environmental impact, from forestry all the way through to the finished roll of paper. It should require detailed information about emissions, water use, type of forest certification and so on,” he advises.
With the guidance of Portland, Ore.-based Metafore’s Paper Working Group, 19 big-name companies are helping with the development of what’s known as the Environmental Paper Assessment Tool (EPAT), which the group describes as “a secure, Web-based database designed to help paper buyers compare paper suppliers’ environmental performance.” With approved access to the system, participating buyers will be able to compare measurements, such as the levels of pre- and post-consumer recycled content, energy use, water use and levels of emissions created in the production of a company’s paper.
Early adopters comprise a mix of publishers, printers and direct marketers, including J.C. Penney, L.L. Bean, Office Depot, Quad/Graphics, FedEx, Target, Nike, Norm Thompson Outfitters, Recreational Equipment Inc. and The Hearst Corp. Representatives from these organizations are working alongside the Paper Working Group to test and fine-tune the tool, which the group says will go live by year’s end. Access to the electronic solution will enable users to compare suppliers’ standings for:
- levels of pre- and post-consumer recycled content;
- energy use;
- water use; and
- levels of emissions during paper production.
Chris Grond, Quad/Graphics’ director of paper purchasing, says the tool will help printers and print buyers see the environmental big picture. “There are some organizations that believe it’s all about recycled content. Others believe it’s about using paper suppliers that have achieved certain certifications,” Grond notes.
“There are a lot of ways in which a company can create an environmental statement. What’s useful about EPAT is that it will allow users to determine their priorities and weigh the importance of certain criteria, whether that’s the amount of recycled content in the paper, the type of forestry certification, how much energy is used to make the paper, water and air emissions, and so forth. It allows a broad view of a particular paper’s environmental footprint,” he says.
Whether a cataloger uses a tool like EPAT or develops a report-card system of its own, Scott Bond of Bulkley Dunton says it’s essential to address environmental policies — and to do it soon. “If the environment is part of your company’s mission, you need to be well-informed. Your paper suppliers, merchants and brokers are well-equipped to provide you with the information you’ll need to determine the best paper options for your catalog,” Bond suggests. “The worst thing you can do is not be informed. You can’t stick your head in the sand and wish it away. If you do, your company may become a target for the environmental advocacy groups.”
If you deem recycled content as an important criterion for the papers you choose, there’s a veritable rainbow of options available today. The following list provides only a few examples:
Domtar (www.domtar.com) offers many selections in its EarthChoice line, including EarthCote™, a No. 3 lightweight coated paper that’s Forest Stewardship Council-certified and contains 30 percent post-consumer waste (PCW) fiber.
Neenah Paper (www.neenahpaper.com) offers:
- ENVIRONMENT® is 100 percent post-consumer fiber, FSC Certified, made without chlorine and uses no new tree fibers. It’s the most environmentally conscious paper in the product line, says Neenah Paper.
- ENVIRONMENT® FSC, with a minimum of 20 percent virgin fibers, is FSC Certified and meets the FSC’s standards for sustainable forest management.
- ENVIRONMENT® Alterna-tive Fiber contains 50 percent sugar cane bagasse and 50 percent recycled fiber, including 30 percent post-consumer fibers.
- ENVIRONMENT® 100 percent Recycled is made with 30 percent post-consumer fibers.
Sappi Fine Papers North America (www.sappi.com) offers:
- Lustro, available in two shades and four finishes, it’s made with 10 percent PCW fiber.
- Opus is a No. 2 paper and available in three finishes; contains 10 percent PCW fiber.
- Strobe is available in gloss and silk finishes and weights of between 80 lb text and 120 lb cover; made with 10 percent PCW fiber.
SMARTPapers LLC (www.smartpapers.com) offers:
- Carnival®, available in 28 colors, nine basis weights and 10 textures. These papers are made with a minimum of 30 percent PCW content and 50 percent total recycled content. Custom Carnival papers also are available with 100 percent PCW content.
- KnightKote Matte, available in text and cover stocks, is machine-coated on two sides with a matte finish. It contains 50 percent recycled fiber content, 30 percent of which is PCW fiber.
- Torchglow Opaque, available in 14 springtime colors and a clean 90 brightness Pearl White shade, contains 20 percent PCW fiber, is acid free and of archival quality.
Stora Enso (www.storaenso.com) offers:
- Fortune, available in gloss, gloss cover, matte and matte cover, this paper contains a minimum of 10 percent post-consumer recycled fiber.
- Centura, available in a range of finishes and weights, contains a minimum of 10 percent post-consumer recycled fiber.
Gretchen Peck is a freelance writer specializing in the graphic arts.