Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ecologomania and Printed Products

If two recent reports from paper companies are any indication, it may soon become common for printed products to use ecologomania and ingredient lists to demonstrate their environmental friendliness.

Note the 10 environmental logos (above) on Cascades' 2008 sustainability report, which are truly an example of "ecologomania" -- the word I've coined for the display of numerous logos for such environmental certifications as sustainable forestry, recycled content, and energy source.

Catalyst Paper's 2008 sustainability report relies more on data than logos to communicate the company's environmental commitment. Its tell-all report provides mill-by-mill data on greenhouse-gas emissions, water usage, solid waste to landfills, and other items.

It also reveals the kind of data paper companies historically have held close to the vest, such as the amounts of various materials used by the company. Factoid: The company used almost as much precipitated calcium carbonate (PCC) as it did fossil fuels.

Both the sustainability report and Catalyst's annual report have what looks like a food product's list of ingredients, showing the inputs and emissions from producing the paper for the report. Note that paper is high in natural fibers.

Another factoid: The carbon footprint of Catalyst's manufacturing operations more than tripled last year when it purchased a 100%-recycled newsprint mill in Snowflake, AZ from AbitibiBowater. That mill's greenhouse-gas emissions per ton of product were at least 9 times higher than that of any other Catalyst mill. So much for the simplistic notion that you can reduce carbon footprint simply by switching to paper with recycled content.

With all of the environmental buzzwords swarming around these days, especially today, vague communications blathering on about corporations’ supposedly green practices don’t carry any weight any more. Increasingly, publishers and paper companies may be expected to back up their claims with hard data and third-party certifications.


Gary said...

Show a little respect at the start of a new religion.

Coordinator of the Printernet Project said...

Actually I think it's now starting to move out of the religion stage to the transparency and accountability stage.

The crux is "previously unreleased" data. "saving the earth by recycling paper" has been around since the 70's. blablabla..

The new thing is clear information about inputs and outputs and the consequences of each step.

content + supplies + manufacturing + distribution + waste = some number.

As far as I've been able to find, good old Dead Tree is the only one with a continuing focus on the supplies and distribution piece.