The Higher Cost of Lower Impact

Considering Recycled Paper

We are all living and doing business in a world of heightened environmental awareness. In recent months, Parthenon has had multiple clients ask about more environmentally friendly options for their print publications. Many are surprised to learn that there are a variety of factors to consider when exploring greener options for producing their publications.

In fact, the variety and breadth of environmentally conscious options available to help maintain our planet go far beyond using paper made of recycled material. Other green initiatives include chlorine-free processing of paper manufacturing, the use of soy-based inks, the use of renewable energy sources, and using papers manufactured using processes committed to sustainable forestry.

When we are examining green options for our publications, there are a variety of things to consider in addition to the percentage of recycled material to be used. Below are just a few:

Reproduction quality: While there is a variety of high-quality recycled papers available, some do not have the same level of whiteness as virgin paper stocks. Others absorb ink differently. As a result, moving blindly to a paper with a high percentage of recycled material could result in a publication lacking the vibrancy of colors that readers have come to expect. In general, the move to recycled paper is less noticeable for a newsletter printed on uncoated paper than it is for a magazine printed on gloss paper.

Availability: Typically, recycled papers are not as readily available as other paper stocks. As a result, committing to use recycled paper could limit options for changing a publication's print quantity or page count late in the production process without impacting the production schedule.

Cost: It may seem counterintuitive, but recycled paper is generally more expensive than paper made from new pulp, or virgin paper. Perhaps the biggest contributor to its higher cost is the economies of scale that are lost by working in the smaller world of recycled paper. As the use of recycled paper grows, the price gap will likely narrow. However, for now, recycled paper is almost always more expensive.

Given the variety of things to consider, going green is really a long-term value judgment, not a short-term cost-efficiency decision. In examining all the options and potential impacts of more environmentally friendly options, we've recently moved a newsletter from all virgin paper to a 30 percent recycled stock. For a magazine, we've chosen a 10 percent recycled paper stock certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as one manufactured using high standards ensuring the forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible and economically viable way.

We are all interested in being part of a greener tomorrow, but it is important to examine all the options in our effort to become more environmentally friendly in communicating with our audiences, be they employees, members or customers. After all, if we're not effectively engaging our readers, we're just talking to ourselves.