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How and When ‘Sustainable Paper’ Is Not an Oxymoron

To raise awareness of the importance of forests and sustainable forestry, the United Nations has designated today, March 21, as the International Day of Forests.

Paper is still a part of our everyday lives, but one thing people often don’t think about is how their paper choices can still support sustainability. To be more sustainable, it’s not about using less paper, it’s about using the right paper. A key part of the International Day of Forests is education.

Did you know: One short ton (0.91 metric tons) of recycled paper saves 17 trees, compared to the same tonnage derived from virgin wood pulp?

So, what should you look for in sustainable paper?

Recycled paper with sustainable material + manufacturing processes

As a manufacturer of recycled paper with up to 100 percent post-consumer waste content, we at Rolland Fine Papers are proud to say that our main source of raw material is the “urban forest” – recycling bins in cities and towns across the American Northeast, Ontario and Quebec. How does this work? Recycled fiber facilities transform this post-consumer waste (PCW) into premium recycled fiber that feeds paper mills.

Beyond our commitment to the environment through our sustainable manufacturing processes, our recycled fiber facilities “close the loop”; residues generated in our manufacturing processes are land-farmed – sold to farmers and reused to feed their soil. This makes us part of a circular economy.

Every day, we are committed to ecological leadership in the pulp and paper industry and to working closely with our suppliers, as well as with NGOs such as Canopy, to promote sustainable forest management and responsible environmental practices.

Certifications that identify sustainable paper products and promote responsible practices

Since transparency is the currency of sustainability, you should also look for reporting, such as a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and also into what certifications they have when it comes to sustainable forestry.

Here are some of the leading certifications that identify sustainable paper products and promote the responsible practices that preserve and protect forests and the environment.

  • The Ancient Forest Friendly™designation from Canopy applies to paper free of fiber from ancient or endangered forests (intact, rare forests critical to the protection of biodiversity), with 100 percent recycled content, whitened without chlorine.

  • The Boreal Forest across Northern Canada; the coastal temperate rainforests of BC, Alaska and Chile; and tropical rainforests in the Amazon, Indonesia and West Africa are among most notable.

  • Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) is a global non-profit organization whose certification and labeling system promotes responsible management of the world’s forests. Recycled paper products that bear the two following labels have been verified as meeting FSC’s strict environmental and social standards:

  • FSC Recycled identifies products made with 100 percent recycled fiber, which must contain at least 70 percent post-consumer content. Post-consumer fiber is recovered entirely from paper used by consumers through recycling programs.

  • FSC Mix identifies products made with a combination of FSC virgin fiber and/or FSC recycled materials with controlled virgin fiber (i.e. not illegally harvested, or from forests harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights, in which conservation values are threatened, are being converted into plantations or non-forest use, or where GMO trees are planted).

  • FSC Chain of Custody is a certificate awarded by accredited certifying organizations, such as the Rainforest Alliance. It allows supply chain companies to label their products, such that consumers can choose products that support responsible forest management. It is a consumer guarantee that any product with the FSC label can be tracked back to an FSC-certified source.

Overall, it’s important to look for companies that are committed to sustainable environmental practices to minimize their footprint (Want to quantify your own environmental footprint? Check out our Eco Calculator!) and to earning the above certifications, which require companies to meet and maintain rigorous criteria regularly verified by third-party organizations.

Today, countries across the globe will be recognizing the International Day of Forests. In the spirit of this observance, may we all gain a better understanding of sustainable resource management and the impact we can have on the environment. Happy International Day of Forests!