by Keaty Gross of the Green America Better Paper Project
So, you’ve decided you’d like to switch to better paper. Congratulations! You’ve made an important decision that will significantly and quantifiably reduce your carbon emissions, water pollution and energy use. Now it’s time to have “the talk” with your printer. This can be a sensitive conversation because, as you know, every printer has relationships with different paper mills in order to get good deals on paper pricing. Perhaps the printer has a relationship with a paper mill that doesn’t have a de-inking unit as part of their paper machine and therefore the mill has to buy de-inked pulp (collected and “cleaned” recycled paper) from the open market. Typically it is these mills that claim using recycled paper isn’t feasible, is too expensive, isn’t a good environmental choice, etc. – a refrain your printer may then repeat to you.
To better prepare you for this conversation, we’ve compiled a simple list of helpful questions to ask your printer:
- Questions about paper:
- Do any of their “house sheets” contain recycled content and how much?
- Does the printer and paper mill have Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification?
- What paper mills do they buy from that have deinking units connected to their paper machines?
- What concerns might they have about using recycled paper? Your printers may express a valid concern about the quality of any paper, recycled or not, but often those fears can be allayed by running a test.
- Is the cost/expense of recycled paper an issue? If so, what volume purchase would mitigate any price premium?
- Do they have other customers that are asking for recycled paper?
- Can you work with your printer to increase the volume purchases by getting other magazines/customers to buy in?
- Would they be amenable to “transparent collaboration” where you as the customer agree to pay a fair price for the paper if they share with you the true costs of recycled paper?
- Questions about printing:
- Do they capture volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and to what percent?
- How do they power their facilities and do they buy power from the grid, and/or do they buy renewable energy?
- Do they have an environmental policy or statement they operate by?
Maintaining good relationships with your printer is important, so we recommend that you communicate the value of continuing your business with them and that you want them to be your partner in your effort to improve your publication’s green attributes. Creating a stewardship policy will help articulate to your printer the short and long-term objectives for your publication. To further prepare for your meeting with your printer, visit the Environmental Paper Network’s Paper Myths section on WhatsInYourPaper.com, or contact Better Paper Project Director Frank Locantore for additional advice.