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Navigation: Minimum Sustainable Recommendations | What are the Issues? | What are the Options? | PDF Version 

Did you know...The average North American office worker uses about 2 cases or 10,000 sheets or 50 kg of paper per year  All totaled estimators suggest nearly 4 billion trees worldwide are cut down each year for paper, and this represents about 35-42% of all harvested tree. ( 

Minimum Sustainable Recommendations

Request copy paper with the following minimum environmental specifications:

  • At least 30% post-consumer waste (PCW) paper, or, at least 50% renewable agricultural fibre.  
  • Paper must be certified by one of the following three internationally recognized forest and manufacturing environmental certifications:
    • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
    • Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)
    • Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)
  • Request the supplier provide the paper bleaching method and show preference for process chlorine free (PCF).

Other things to consider

To minimize greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste production, the vendor should be encouraged to develop sustainable delivery strategies:

  1. Product delivery consolidations
  2. Efficient logistics and route planning
  3. No idling of vehicles
  4. Use of fuel efficient delivery vehicles

Both EcoLogo and GreenSeal provide third party certification for a variety of pulp and paper products.  Check out their websites to review their certification criteria for purchasing considerations.  


What are the issues?

In addition to direct impacts on the forest from timber harvesting, producing paper at a mill uses large amounts of energy and water. The paper industry uses over 80,000 litres of fresh water and over 35 gigajoules of energy to produce a ton of paper product. That’s enough water for about 1,000 loads of laundry and about enough energy to fill-up 70 propane cylinders for your barbeque.

During the manufacturing process, harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere and into our water bodies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that making paper from recycled materials results in 74% less air pollution and 35% less water pollution. This means that every ton of recycled paper keeps almost 60 pounds of pollutants out of the atmosphere that would have been produced if the paper had been manufactured from virgin resources.


What are the options?

Luckily, through the efforts of the purchaser, a business can significantly reduce the environmental impacts on the forest and at the paper mill. 

Decisions purchasers often make that significantly help the environment are:

  • Buying office equipment capable of double-sided printing and show end users how they can save money by reducing paper purchases – thus reducing overall paper use.
  • Purchasing paper with post-consumer waste (PCW) content (minimum 30%).  This supports the recycling industry by using blue box commodities (paper materials) therefore helping to reduce landfill waste, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserving our forest resources.
  • Purchasing paper made with renewable agrifibres such as wheat-straw. Use of agrifibres to generate paper creates a market demand for excess straw residue that would otherwise be removed from agricultural fields.
  • If you purchase paper products containing 30% post-consumer waste, this means that 70% of the product is made of harvested tree pulp. Purchasers should request internationally recognized certifications including Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) to ensure that the pulp originated from sustainably harvested and responsibly managed forests.
  • In addition, consider purchasing paper produced from mills that do not use chlorine or chlorine compounds during bleaching process. Various terms including elemental chlorine-free (ECF), process chlorine-free (PCF) and total chlorine-free (TCF) are often used to define the bleaching process.   If you are purchasing paper with post-consumer waste, the PCF specification is often requested.   When you request PCF in a tender document, the pulp in the paper is totally chlorine-free and the recycled portion, (post-consumer waste fiber) has not been re-bleached with chlorine-containing compounds. 


Last updated: March 2015


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