Paper Mill

Print media relies upon the paper industry and ink industry to package its product.  Historically these have been (and are) some of the more polluting industries in the country.  Yet some companies are producing much more benign products.  All of us as consumers should make every effort to use “green” eco-friendly paper products.

The following article written by Willow  Cook is several years old.  More recent technologies and companies are springing up.  This article is published by Tech Soup ( which is a bonanza of services and products for nonprofits.  The following is some excerpts from her article.  Follow the link for the full version.

–Allen Johnson

A Nonprofit’s Guide to Green Printing

Do more to reach out to constituents and less to damage the earth

–by Willow Cook (Tech Soup, 2006)   For entire article, use the following link:

It’s no secret that paper production taxes forests, water, and energy supplies. In fact, eco-advocacy group Environmental Defense estimates that producing one ton of virgin uncoated paper — which accounts for 90 percent of the United States’ printing and writing paper — requires three tons of wood, 19,075 gallons of water, and generates 2,278 pounds of solid waste.

Moreover, many white papers are bleached via a chlorination process that releases dangerous chemicals and pollutants into the water, according to sustainable-design Web site Renourish.

“The printing industry is the single largest air polluter and the third-largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world after automobiles and steel manufacturing,” said Renourish Founder and University of Illinois Design Professor Eric Benson. “On a typical day, [printers] use trillions of gallons of water that must be treated for its toxic chemical content and released back into our waterways.”

Meanwhile, adhesives, bindings, and foils used in printing and packaging can render the final product unrecyclable, virtually guaranteeing that it will end up in a landfill. There, petroleum-based inks can cause lasting damage to the environment, leaching volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — which can cause cancer and birth defects — into the ground, contaminating soil, groundwater, and, upon evaporation, the air.

The printing process itself is equally hazardous: Many of the solvents, shellacs, driers, and other solutions employed in producing film, printing plates, and cleaning the presses are toxic pollutants that can cause chronic health problems — including kidney and liver damage, and even death — among press operators, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

It’s Easy Printing Green

Among Dynamic Graphics and Renourish’s recommendations:

  • Choose paper that is 100 percent post-consumer waste (PCW), processed chlorine free (PCF), uncoated, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, made by renewable energy sources like wind or solar power (Mohawk Paper is a leader in this area), or even treeless (hemp and kenaf are two options).
  • Use vegetable-based inks or soy inks instead of petroleum-based inks. These alternatives are both low in VOCs and competitively priced. When using Pantone colors — an industry standard — avoid colors (mostly metallics and warm reds) that contain barium, copper, and zinc, which can cause health problems in humans. (Renourish offers free downloadable PDFs showing which Pantone colors are safe in its ink section.) Not all soy inks are created equal, however: Ecoprint’s Telschow advises using those with less than 2 percent VOCs.
  • Look for a printer that uses renewable energy sources. Telschow points out that Monroe Litho in New York operates solely by wind power; Ecoprint itself has gone 100 percent carbon neutral by buying renewable energy credits for the emissions they aren’t able to eliminate in the shop.
  • Try waterless printing, which eliminates the dampening systems used in conventional printing. Digital printing, which avoids the film and chemicals in traditional printing processes, is another good alternative.
  • Avoid using bindings, adhesives, or foil stamps in packaging.
  • Reduce the amount of inks you use by going with one- or two-color designs; you can also save paper by asking your designer to use standard press sheet sizes.
  • Familiarize yourself with industry standards. The Environmental Protection Agency mandates that federal agencies must use uncoated printing and writing papers containing at least 30 percent PCW content; coated papers must contain 10 percent, notes Dynamic Graphics.