What Choice is Best?
You’ve probably noticed that, within the last few years, there’s become a bit of a paper shortage in the US – to say the least. Paper has been much harder to come by – and with that, many companies are looking into alternatives as well as ways to combat the shortage. Today, we’re discussing eco-friendly paper options that, in the long-run, may not only help with the shortage, but aid our environment to positively impact the world we live in.
Why is there a Paper Shortage?
Not too long ago, we posted a blog on the paper shortage. We discussed what’s causing it, what it means for marketers and their print projects, and how we can combat it. Overall, the shortage is due to the many changes in our world that have happened over the past few years. Between the pandemic, lumber scarcity, changes in supply and demand, and a decrease in transportation, several things made the perfect storm to decrease our paper resources. Learn more by reading the full blog, here.
Myth vs. Fact of Tree Waste
Before we go into some paper options and alternatives, we wanted to bring a few statistics from ChoosePrint.org to your attention:
- Myth: Paper is Made from Fresh-Cut Trees
- Reality: Paper is Made Primarily from “Waste” Products
- Myth: Print Leads to Deforestation
- Reality: Print Promotes Trees
- Myth: The Tree Population is Shrinking
- Reality: More Trees and Forests Exist Today Than 20 Years Ago
Questions? Dive a bit deeper into these, here.
Why Look Into Other Options?
Right now, the world “consumes around 300 million tons of paper each year.” So, although there are many trees being planted each year, and a lot more people are focusing on the environment, to keep up with what we’re taking away, we need to stay cognizant of our paper resources and usage. No matter what we’re doing to combat the negatives of paper creation, there are still forms and instances of paper creation (for example, deforestation of tropical forests) that take away wildlife habitat and emit greenhouse gases into the environment – so it’s important to be sure you’re not contributing to these negative practices. It’s estimated that “28,000 species may become extinct in the next quarter of a century from deforestation”, and that the burning and clearing of forests “accounts for about 20% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions.”
What are My Eco-Friendly Paper Options?
Although it may be your go-to and first guess, recycled paper may not be your only or best option. Eco friendly or “alternative” paper has a “smaller carbon footprint” and less overall impact on our environment.
Overall, there are currently two kinds of eco-friendly paper options. Recycled and curated.
Recycled is made from “post-consumer waste rather than wood pulp from freshly cut trees”. This reuse of post-consumer waste reduces deforestation and keeps habitats for wildlife, plus, “recycling roughly one ton of paper reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one ton of carbon equivalent, and saves around 7,000 gallons of water.” But – and this is important – be sure to look at the percentage (which manufacturers are required to include). Several companies will only use a small percentage of recycled materials, when we really want the percentage to be as close to 100 as possible.
Curated paper is from a managed forest system – the most popular and well-known of those being FSC Certified paper. FSC Certified is Forest Stewardship Council certified, which means it was created sustainably. If you look further into this, it primarily means that the paper was created with consideration of the protection of our environment as well as ethical treatment of production workers. “So far, the FSC has certified around 174 million hectares (429 million acres) of forests worldwide.” Additionally, other certifications exist, such as Preferred by Nature, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and PEFC.
Lastly, you can use both. What do we mean? Curated paper that is made from (at least partially) recycled materials – the best of both worlds! Look into what makes the most sense and works best for your company. If you’re not sure, the best thing you can do is reach out to others, research, and simply try to do what’s best for our world.
Want to discuss your options with us? Looking for more information or resources? Contact Strata.
Where We Are & Where We’re Going
Operation Eco. The name we’ve chosen to represent our environmental initiatives – big or small. The term “operation” has many meanings. One: performance of a practical work or of something involving the practical application of principles or processes. Two: the fact or condition of functioning or being active. And three: an act of surgery performed on a patient. Not only does our team plan to perform practical work that holds true to our principles and values, but we plan to be active in our environmental choices, not just passively checking off a box. And, although we’re not doctors here at Strata, we plan to operate with knowledge, meticulous research, and care for wellness (for both our earth, and our employees).
Our Mission, Vision, & Values
As a team, Operation Eco is dedicated to guiding Strata on an impactful, research-driven journey to evolve our workplace (and even perhaps, ourselves). The workplace is its own ecosystem, affected by our operations, vendors, consumers and our team. Reducing our total eco-footprint and achieving long-term sustainability will be a journey of both small and large challenges. We’re striving to make the largest positive environmental impact as well as encourage positive change in our individual habits. According to the EPA, the largest contributor to carbon emissions is transportation, which is just one example of how we all can make an impact by our individual decisions.
We may just be one small company, but we believe our impact can be greater than our size. To make this impact, we’ll continuously research, test, implement and adjust our eco-focused strategies in order to figure out what tactics have the biggest influence on our efforts and our environment. We plan to stay true to our mission yet be flexible with our timelines, because we understand that a more environmentally conscious, sustainable, flexible, and modern workplace culture is an ongoing, team-based journey, not a singular destination.
Among other things, we value research, accountability, flexibility, communication, partnership and teamwork, innovation, long-term sustainability and efficiency, and modernization. Our value statements are as follows:
- We understand that eco-first decisions should not be made in a vacuum and should be driven, and backed by research.
- We acknowledge that as members of the Operation Eco team, we must be thoughtful about and accountable for our actions, lead by example, and communicate our knowledge and values of sustainability to the company.
- We know that Strata’s eco-first initiative is a journey, and therefor acknowledge that we must be flexible with our decisions, processes, timelines and overall goal for the future.
- We are open to partnering with sustainability experts, knowing that this in uncharted territory for our company, and understanding that industry leaders can help us further our journey and reach our end goal of becoming a carbon neutral company by 2030 and fully sustainable by 2035.
- We are willing to continuously educate ourselves and others in the company on the principles and possibilities of sustainability and are willing to pursue innovative solutions along the way.
- We will continuously keep the wellness and morale of our employees in mind as we go through this journey.
The Operation Eco team’s goal is to work together to guide Strata, and our broader “eco system” on a journey to sustainability that’s driven by research, collaboration, and innovation. We will be thoughtful about all of our actions, open to opinions, and actively communicate our progress. Again – to put it simply, we’re determined to help Strata become a carbon neutral company by 2030 and fully sustainable by 2035.
You’ll notice that we’ve chosen a logo to represent Operation Eco that is quite simple, yet contains an arrow moving towards the right (forward). We’ve included this arrow to symbolize growth over time, as we know our plans and vision may change, but our overall goal will stay the same.
Strata has always kept an eye on the environment and our impact – with roots in the printing industry, we’ve always known that we have to pay closer attention to it than most. Over the years, we’ve done our best to handle waste chemicals with care and efficiency. We’ve paid attention to what was available to us to keep waste low, and have recycled or given our waste to a reclamation company.
Safety-Kleen, a leader in waste disposal services, is the company we’ve used most often for waste reclamation. They specialize in “proper handling, recycling, and disposal of both hazardous and non-hazardous waste” and “ensure that your waste solution balances your objectives, operational demands and budget, while eliminating your environmental burden.”
We’ve also worked with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) who ensures certification of paper offerings that are from renewable sources. What does this mean? That this paper was made with the least environmental impact, and the organization responsible for it “shall maintain, conserve and/or restore ecosystem services and environmental values of the Management Unit, and shall avoid, repair or mitigate negative environmental impacts.” We’ve also worked with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), who provide “solutions to local and global sustainability challenges.”
Strata also uses (and has used for many years) vegetable dye inks. Additionally, the largest chemical waste from our digital printers, imaging oil, is now reusable dramatically reducing this waste stream.
Although we’ve strived to be environmentally conscious in the past, we believe that our Operation Eco team will help us to hone in on what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and what we can do to make our company as environmentally neutral as possible.
As we stated in our mission above, Strata hopes to conduct ample research and seek out experiences that help us to figure out what tactics have the biggest impact on our efforts and our environment. Our first and current focuses are renovations and remodeling and eco-friendly and efficient chemistry. Check back for next steps.
Interested in following along with Operation Eco’s journey? Keep an eye out for future StrataBytes blogs on our website, and connect with us on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn) to follow our eco initiative.