9 Steps to Buying Responsible Paper

  1. Form a Team
  2. Establish Your Baseline
  3. Set Goals
  4. Develop a Policy
  5. Use Paper Efficiently
  6. Purchase Environmentally Preferable Paper
  7. Close the Loop
  8. Track Progress
  9. Spread the Word
Step 1. Form a Team
Assemble a team responsible for implementing decisions regarding the use and procurement of paper and paper products, developing a plan to move forward, and measuring results. The team should include a broad range of stakeholders, including those responsible for purchasing paper and paper products, a representative from management, interested staff, and end-users.

As a first step, the team should educate themselves on issues associated with paper purchasing, including myths about environmentally preferable paper. This information will help the team determine strategies to address the use and procurement of paper and paper products and prepare them to respond to questions about new policies and procedures.

For more information on paper myths, see MYTHS

Step 2: Establish Your Baseline
Determine your baseline by taking an inventory of the paper and paper products you currently buy and in what quantities. Identify the environmental attributes of these products, such as post-consumer and total recycled content, virgin fibre originating from sustainable sources, and the use of cleaner production practices. This baseline data will help you determine priorities and set goals for transitioning to more environmentally preferable paper and paper products.
Step 3: Set Goals
After examining your baseline, set ambitious but realistic goals for purchasing more environmentally preferable paper and paper products. Design a plan of action, with a specific timetable, for meeting these goals. To maximize your impact, your plan should begin by focusing on products that you buy in significant quantities and where environmentally preferable alternatives already exist.
Step 4: Develop a Policy
Develop an organisational policy to formalize your commitment to purchase environmentally preferable paper and paper products. Communicate this policy to managers and staff, suppliers, customers, partners, and the public.

For a simple sample policy, see POLICY.

Step 5: Use Paper Efficiently
Use paper efficiently by eliminating excessive and unnecessary paper consumption. Identify ways to further save money through the purchase and use of environmentally preferable paper and paper products. Examples of using paper more efficiently include:

  • Substituting electronic communications for printing.
  • Purchasing copiers, printers, and fax machines that can be set to default to double-sided printing.
  • Reusing products such as file folders, storage boxes, and paper printed on one side.
  • Reducing the basis weight and trim size of printed pieces.
  • Rethinking design processes to minimise printing and copying waste.
  • Minimizing unsolicited mail, both sent and received.
  • Minimizing overruns and maximizing sell-through for published materials.

For additional strategies to use paper efficiently, see SAVE PAPER

Step 6: Purchase Environmentally Preferable Paper

Buy papers that maximize recycled content, originate from responsibly-managed forests, and employ cleaner production practices. High performance products are now available for most applications. Look for products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an independent third-party organisation that verifies that fibre originates from sustainable sources.

See the Paper Steps for a guide to environmental attributes and a list of product category leaders in the EcoPaper Database.

For large organisations with established purchasing agreements that are unable to source papers listed in the EcoPaper Database, confirm with suppliers and manufacturers the source of any virgin fibre content in paper. Include environmental attributes in your specifications for paper and paper products, and give preference to suppliers and manufacturers that establish a credible “chain of custody” tracking system to reliably identify the origin of fibre sources.

For model environmental specifications, see SPECS.

Some purchasers may need further assistance working with their suppliers to verify the fibre content of the paper and paper products they purchase. For a list of EPN member organisations by sector that can provide additional help, see HELP

Step 7: Close the Loop
Establish an office paper recycling program or policy, or improve upon an existing program or policy, to ensure the raw materials for recycled-content paper are available. Educate co-workers as to what is required of them, including alerting cleaning staff and waste haulers to keep recyclables separate from trash.

For suggestions on implementing recycling procedures in your organisation, CLICK HERE

Step 8: Track Progress
Schedule regular assessments of the progress of your paper goals to ensure predetermined benchmarks are being achieved. Identify and address any obstacles that may be limiting the program’s success and adjust goals if necessary.
Step 9: Spread the Word
Post your environmental paper purchasing policy, goals, or achievements on your website and/or include them in an annual sustainability report. Print on documents an accurate description of the attributes of the environmentally preferable papers used, in order to raise awareness and accountability.