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