If you can’t go completely paperless…

Even though you should be going paperless, there are still some things you can do to save paper.

From Tips for a Greener Office:

  • Choose stationery, office and publication papers and office paper supplies that have the maximum post-consumer content available, and no less than 20%.
  • Choose papers that are the lightest weight possible, not to exceed the following basis weights (i.e., weight in pounds per carton of 5,000 8.5″ x 11″ sheets):

Direct mail letters and envelopes

40 to 50# text

Reply cards, post cards or business cards

60# text


47# text


47 to 50# text for most reports;

60# text for those requiring high opacity

Report covers

80# cover

Letterhead and envelopes

60# text (equal to 24# bond)

Copy paper

50# text (equal to 20# bond)

  • If a paper containing post-consumer content is available only at a higher basis weight, choose it only if its virgin fiber content does not exceed the above basis weight.
  • For office supplies not intended to be used for writing or for printing of text (e.g., file folders, envelopes), choose unbleached paper. (NOTE: “Manila” folders and envelopes are actually bleached and then dyed to achieve their distinctive color. Look for unbleached alternatives.)
  • Where bleached paper is needed, choose a paper made from pulp that is nearest as possible to the top of the following “bleaching” hierarchy (you’ll likely need to ask your vendors to provide this information, which they will in turn need to obtain from their suppliers):
    • kraft or recycled pulp bleached using TCF (totally chlorine free) processes
    • kraft pulp made using oxygen delignification or extended delignification, and bleached without elemental chlorine
    • kraft pulp made using oxygen delignification or extended delignification, and bleached using some residual elemental chlorine
    • kraft pulp bleached without elemental chlorine but not made using oxygen delignification or extended delignification
    • TO BE AVOIDED: kraft pulp bleached using only elemental chlorine, and sulfite pulps, including those that are TCF
  • Look for papers containing pulp made from agricultural residues. Pulps made from materials such as wheat straw or rice straw are environmentally preferable. They may substitute for or be combined with post-consumer recycled material to meet the minimum 20% post-consumer recycled content specification (e.g., 20% wheat straw or 10% each of wheat straw and post-consumer recycled content).
  • If you are using a paper grade using mechanical pulp (e.g., newsprint or other uncoated “groundwood” type papers such as telephone directory paper), look for papers containing pulp made from kenaf, an annual fiber crop. However, chemical pulps made from annual crops grown in the U.S. (kenaf or hemp) are not environmentally preferable, based on information available at this time, and their use is not encouraged.
  • In identifying and choosing among papers, the following sequence of questions should be used by the purchaser and his/her supplier or printer both to gather the information needed to apply the above specifications and to obtain the most environmentally preferable papers:
    • What is the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled content (or pulp content derived from agricultural residues) available for this type of paper and application? How much total recycled content does the paper have? (Specify whether the measurement is by fiber weight or by total weight.)
    • What is the lowest basis weight that can be used in this application?
    • Can unbleached paper be used? If not:
    • Is paper made from kraft or recycled TCF pulps available? If not,
    • Is paper made from ECF (elemental chlorine free) pulp available? If so,
    • Is the ECF pulp made using OD or ED?
  • Avoid coated papers where possible, unless the coating allows use of a paper with a lower basis weight than the uncoated alternative, for example by providing greater opacity. Here’s a sample calculation:
    • Paper 1 is 80# uncoated cover paper. Thus, all 80# is fiber.
    • Paper 2 is 70# coated cover paper, and uses a 20# coating to achieve the same opacity as the thicker sheet. Thus, 50# is fiber.

    Paper 2 is acceptable because it is of a lower basis weight. It also requires less fiber.

  • Think twice before using colored papers. Avoid papers dyed using neon and other deep colors (e.g., red, goldenrod); they interfere with recycling because of the difficulty in removing such dyes during the recycling process.* Pastel colors are generally acceptable for recycling. However, any colored paper is produced using various dyes or pigments, the production of which creates environmental impacts. Avoid use of such papers whenever you can.
  • Avoid using envelopes with covered windows wherever possible, in order to enhance their recyclability. While covered windows may be needed for certain envelopes that are stuffed mechanically in order to avoid jams and tearing (and the associated waste), any windows present on reply envelopes should not be covered.
  • Use adhesives on envelopes and mailing labels only if they are water-based and do not contain chlorinated organic compounds, many of which are persistent, toxic chemicals.
  • Avoid the use of adhesive labels wherever possible. Peel-and-stick labels should be avoided in particular; their adhesives are typically not water-based.

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