Which office paper is the most sustainable?

With logging of old growth forests still a contentious issue in Australia and rainforest destruction continuing across the globe, companies and individuals need to think carefully about how to exercise their purchasing power if they desire a sustainable pulp and paper industry.

Now that technology has enabled the electronic storage of documents, environment and sustainability policies should focus on elimination of paper as the number one priority with a long term goal of the “paperless office”.  Such a transition presents a win-win for the environment and the economy due to the productivity gains of reducing office clutter together with easy retrieval and safe storage of records.  In the short term companies can reduce the consumption of paper with double sided printing as the norm, carefully implemented so that people don’t make mistakes and re-print.

The big question is that when its necessary to buy paper, which one is the most sustainable?  In an effort to help decision makers make sense of the many eco-labels that appear on reams of office paper, the Buying Better Project at the Total Environment Centre in Sydney released a useful policy on Printer Paper dated December 5, 2012.

They don’t endorse any particular product but suggest that the most important buying criteria are in the following order:

  1. Recycled content with 100% ideal and verification against ISO14021 desirable.
  2. A label from  a recognised sustainable forest management certification body such as the Forest Stewardship Council( FSC) or PEFC.
  3. Carbon neutral or carbon reduced,  if it is verified by a recognised 3rd party such as National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS).

The Buying Better Project guidance is the result of a simplified life cycle assessment (LCA) process which determined the most significant (material) stages in the lifecycle of office paper to be raw material (extracts and processes) and  manufacturing. Download the guide at: http://www.greencapital.org.au/projects/buying-better.html

The Global Carbon Project, budget report

The Global Carbon Project has released its 2012 carbon budget.

This is an informative update on greenhouse gas emission figures and analysis of trends. These latest figures reveal that despite 20 years of climate change talks and the global financial crisis and its aftershocks, carbon emissions have increased a massive 54% since 1990.

Observed emissions are tracking at the worst case IPCC scenarios making it even less likely that global warming will remain below 2degrees centigrade, the level that world leaders have committed to achieve.

The trajectory shows that the likely range of global temperatures in the year 2100  will be 4 – 6.1 degrees C. That is “without  immediate, significant and sustained global mitigation, with a probable reliance on net negative emission in the longer term”.

Lets hope our political and business leaders take heed.

Download the report at http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/index.htm

The importance of measurable targets

20 years after the Rio Earth Summit, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) this year released the GEO-5 report. Since the inception of UNEP in 1972 there have been an impressive array of international treaties about the environment, over 500 in fact. But do we know how effective these treaties have been and do they go far enough?

According to Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UNEP, the goals that are specific and measurable “appear to have a much better record of success”.  These include goals to phase out ozone depleting substances, certain persistent organic pollutants (POP)s, targets to increase the number and extend of protected areas and to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water.

Many other goals have not been achieved and others are non-specific and aspirational in nature making them difficult to track. One example is the aim of improving global freshwater quality…..  a good ambition but how does one measure its achievement or non-achievement?

Voluntary action by individuals and businesses face the same challenge. Once a commitment is made to improve an element of environmental or social sustainability, the targets need to be set so that they are specific and measurable with performance indicators.  This in turn enables the setting up of data gathering and sustainability reporting.

Down load the report at : http://www.unep.org/geo/geo5.asp