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Design Info Swap: The environmental impact edition
April 25, 2008

April's Design Info Swap focused on how our design decisions impact the environment. We were joined by Joe Isaak from Saapi Paper, Rhonda Gowan from Duffy Paper, and Bob Swoverland from Printing Services to help explain environmental paper and printing terminology and processes, and to shed light on the complete environmental impact of our production choices.

To generalize, we learned the following:

  1. Most paper produced in North America is produced sustainably.

    Only a fraction of the forests worldwide are FSC, SFI, or PEFC certified, which lessens the amount of paper that can have these designations. For example a significant percentage of trees for paper are claimed, sustainably, from landowners that can't afford to pay for this certification. Beware: many Pacific Rim papers have a history of unsustainable labor and environmental practices, but they're cheap so are sold in the U.S.

    Conclusion: Make sure paper is from sustainable sources (always ask what house sheets are).

  2. Coated paper isn't bad.

    Coated, or shiny paper, is created using clay, a natural ingredient. In many ways it recycles better because the coating prevents the ink from soaking in, so it's easier to de-ink.

    Conclusion: No need to change from coated to uncoated; use both.

  3. Energy use is a significant variable in this equation.

    The farther away a paper is sourced, the more fuel it takes to get here. Recycling paper also requires energy and chemicals such as chlorine to de-ink the paper.

    Conclusion: Source locally, use state-mandated 10% postconsumer content, but don't stress needing more. Use paper that is elemental-chlorine-free (ECF), totally-chlorine-free (TCF), or process-chlorine-free (indicates recycled paper that is chlorine free with unknown but recycled pulp's chlorine use is unknown).

  4. Printing decisions are important.

    Conclusion: Regardless of the paper, using varnishes, coatings, lamination, and certain metallic inks are bad for the environment. Use them only as needed.

  5. Reduce the amount of paper consumed.

    Conclusion: Reducing the number of publications will reduce the paper consumed (and therefore save money). In the publications we continue to produce, design choices can decrease paper use (such as using self-mailers versus envelopes, lighter paper stocks, and better use of the press sheet). Work with your printer to evaluate the environmental impact of your production decisions.

Presenter contact information:

FYI: Our own University printer, Printing Services, is FSC certified has 100% postconsumer waste Enviro100 paper in stock.

Some URLs to visit for more information:


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