Whether or not you celebrate a holiday during this time of year, December is certainly the busiest month of the year for our letter boxes. We, too, love sending out season’s greetings via snail mail, and this week, we’re teaming up with dieUmweltDruckerei, a company we’ve been using for a long time, to take a closer look at how we can make paper communication more sustainable. How can we be respectful of nature’s limited resources, what’s the deal with recycled paper, when does what way of communicating make sense, and what options are out there for us to choose from? [This post is sponsored.]
So what’s paper actually made from? In a nutshell, there are two options: fresh or virgin fibre paper, made from wood, and recycled paper, made from previously used paper. Producing 500 pages of virgin fibre paper uses 7.5 kg wood, 130 litres water and 26.8 kWh energy, amounting to a total of approx. 2.6 kg of carbon dioxide emissions. Making its way from being used in the graphic sector to becoming toilet paper or packaging material later on, paper can be recycled up to 7 times though, saving approx. 70% water and 60% energy compared to conventional fresh fibre paper. 3 pages of recycled paper save enough energy to make a pot of coffee, 250 pages save enough energy to run an energy saving 11 watt light bulb for 50+ hours, 500 pages save enough energy for a load of laundry, and 1 ton of recycled paper allows us to save the equivalent of a 1000 km car drive in carbon dioxide emissions. Also important when we look at recycling paper: the inks that have been used to print the paper that’s being recycled (more on that later), as the harmful chemicals they do or do not contain are being released into the environment during the recycling process.
And what about digital communication? While it’s easy to forget the resources used to manufacture the products we need for communicating digitally and the emissions their use emits into the atmosphere, they’re not at all negligible. An email, for instance, releases the equivalent of 4-50g of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, depending on how much written or attached content it includes, due to the greenhouse gases emissions from producing and running computers, servers and routers. So that’s one more reason to unsubscribe from newsletters we don’t read anyways and for being mindful about our digital consumption!
We probably all came across friendly reminders at the end of emails, e.g. “Think before you print”, right? As a general rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to keep in mind that we don’t need to print out everything we use in our daily life, especially if we can use a digital device that we already own instead. But, like with many things in life, digital versus paper communication is not quite as black as white as you might think, and there are many decisions to be taken that will actually make a difference.
So how can we make paper communication more sustainable? Here are a few key aspects to pay attention to:
Whenever possible, opt for recycled paper, and for printed products, choose a printer that uses vegetable oil based inks instead of conventional mineral oil based inks. Vegetable oil based inks translate into much lower rates of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) emissions than mineral oil inks, which, in contrast to vegetable oil based inks, may also contain heavy metals. In addition to that, vegetable oils are derived from renewable resources, whereas mineral oil based inks are not, and the vegetable oil based inks can be removed from waste paper during de-inking much more easily.
The paper they use makes up the largest part of a printing company’s carbon dioxide emissions, so using a company that only prints on recycled paper is a big step towards less harmful emissions. Just like with any other company we buy from, it’s certainly worth taking a look at non-product-specific business processes, too – everything that doesn’t directly have to do with the product we’re purchasing, but still has major impacts on a company’s sustainability record.
An important aspect in that and the second largest source of emissions in printing is the energy they’re using: compared to non-renewable energy sources, a company using only renewable energy helps preserve a tremendous amount of nature’s scarce resources. Same goes for waste and recycling: by supporting a company that implements a circular system, making sure recyclable materials are being reused, you contribute an important part to more sustainability. Another aspect that often goes unnoticed, but makes quite the difference: collaborations, suppliers, subcontractors – anyone they work with, you choose to support, too. Do they practice what they preach and only team up with others who share the same goals and values whenever possible? In addition to whom they choose to work with, finding out about causes they’re passionate about and support outside of their core work can also tell us a lot about a company’s values and help us decide if we really want to buy from them.
Just like us here at Sustainablist, the lovely team over at dieUmweltDruckerei has a holistic view on sustainability that, for them, too, translates into all aspects of their work. They’re transparent about their processes and about where they source their materials from (find out more here, if you’re curious), and put sustainability first with everything they do without compromising on quality. In numbers: 100% of the paper they use are made from recycled materials, either Blauer Engel or Euroblume certified; 100% of the inks used during the printing process are vegetable oil based; 100% of the energy used at dieUmweltdruckerei comes from renewable energy sources. And then lastly, here’s a fact that I think is especially inspiring: they’re a climate-neutral business. Yes, that’s right – they don’t produce any carbon dioxide emissions that can be avoided, and offset any emissions that cannot be avoided.
In addition to all of that, they’re involved with and donate to several causes, such as species protection projects, they themselves only use companies they 100% stand behind, e.g., for office supplies or food, and from everything I learned about their internal structures – ranging from their commitment to diversity within the team to what they offer their employees in terms of vacation days, home office agreements and more –, dieUmweltDruckerei sounds like a great company to work at and most certainly is a company we’re proud to collaborate with.
We had the opportunity to create holiday cards with them to show you an example of their print products, and just like in past years, we’re absolutely delighted with them. To show you what both large-scale images as well as different colour schemes next to each other look like on the final print products, we created two holiday card layouts using some of the photos Melinda took this November. Before I keep on gushing, just see for yourself:
We opted for their Recycling Offset Circle Offset Premium White paper option that comes with a luxurious open finish, shows off colours in a beautiful way that looks very natural, and is one of six options you can choose from, both lighter-weight and heavier than what we went with. If grey, speckled and rough is what recycling paper makes you think of, you’re in for a surprise of the best possible kind: The cards are of very high quality, extremely well made, and look absolutely pristine while still having a natural feel.
And if cards aren’t what you’re looking for? There’s a lot more you can print with them: dieUmweltDruckerei’s product range goes far beyond cards in various sizes (ours are the DIN A6 ones!) and includes everything you’ll need for personal and professional communication, from stationery and business cards to desk pads, calendars and even books. Here’s where you’ll find the full portfolio and this is where you can order free paper samples, and in case you have any questions about making paper communication more sustainable, just hit me up in the comments!