Sustainable Paper Options for Print Shops

You want to start stocking green, sustainable paper, but where do you go? And how do you know what makes a paper stock “green” in the first place? According to the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), it all boils down to sustainably logged timber.

What does that really mean? To make it just a little bit more confusing, both organizations have their own definitions, regulations and certification processes. But each organization is recognized as an outstanding source of sustainable, “green” paper.

Using FSC- or SFI-certified paper is one of the most important steps in becoming a green printer, as more and more companies are calling for sustainable paper, even if they don’t have a green initiative in their own company.

FSC – Forest Stewardship Council

In order to become FSC certified, meaning you have the right to stamp your sustainable paper products with the FSC logo, a timber or logging company must submit to an independent audit of their forest management practices, and a printer must submit an application with their practices and procedures to become a certified printer.

In the logging audit, the FSC is looking to make sure the company or individual respects international worker’s rights, does not use hazardous chemicals, does not convert or abuse natural habitats, respects the human rights of Indigenous Peoples, follows local laws and identifies and protects any areas that need special attention (habitats, sacred sites, etc).

The FSC certification clearly goes beyond the environmental concepts of “green” and “sustainable” paper, and puts a strong focus on human and cultural rights too.

SFI – Sustainable Forestry Initiative

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative audits and certifies forests in the United States and Canada that are deemed to be responsibly managed.

In comparison to the FSC, the SFI certification tends to focus on greener or more environmental criteria. Their nine guiding principles of sustainable forestry include responsible practices, reforestation and adherence to productivity restraints, forest health management, long-term forest and soil management, protection of water resources, protection of special sites and biodiversity, legal compliance and a commitment to ongoing, continual improvement.

However, just because a stock is labeled as “sustainable paper” or “green paper,” and includes an SFI or FSC logo, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s 100% certified. Paper stocks can contain 10% certified or 20% certified materials, just as stocks can be 10% or 20% recycled. So, before you invest in “sustainable paper,” make sure you understand exactly what that “sustainable” label entails.

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