Direct Mail — With a Conscience
For many organizations, the use of recycled paper stocks for printed fundraising materials has long been a key component to demonstrating environmental responsibility. However, the limitations of recycled stocks traditionally have made them a challenge to use. Inconsistent sheet quality can reduce printability, while limited stock choices and higher costs often have relegated their use to special projects such as donor-acquisition campaigns.
But that’s all changed over the past few years. Today, recycled stocks are of much higher quality than they were even five years ago, allowing organizations to use them for all of their printed communications if they choose. But perhaps the biggest shift has been in the paper-manufacturing process itself. Everyone from forest owners and paper manufacturers to printing- and mail-services providers has placed a greater emphasis on sustainable environmental stewardship — a phrase you’re likely to hear much more frequently in the coming year.
Let’s review the key factors to keep in mind when selecting a recycled stock. We’ll then take a look at some of the major sustainability initiatives currently in place.
Know your acronyms
If you’ve recently purchased recycled paper or researched the marketplace choices, you’ve likely struggled with how to parse the many designations used to identify exactly what’s in recycled paper and how it was made. The most important of these are post-consumer waste and pre-consumer waste. Keep in mind that recycled paper manufacturers use PCW to refer to post-consumer waste.
PCW is recovered paper that has served its intended end use, such as a newspaper, direct mail or office copy paper. Pre-consumer waste refers to manufactured paper that has never reached the consumer and can be generated from printing waste, rejected stock or paper-end rolls produced in the paper-making process. Recycled paper is categorized by its percentage of post-consumer waste content, which is generally 10 percent PCW for coated stocks and 30 percent PCW for uncoated stocks.
Before PCW paper can be reused, it requires additional processing such as de-inking and bleaching. Several bleaching methods are commonly used, and recycled papers are categorized by the impact these methods have on the environment based on the chlorine content of the recycled paper.
Why all the fuss over the use of chlorine? Because dioxins released during some bleaching processes (such as those that use chlorine gas) are harmful to air, soil and water.
The Elemental Chlorine Free (ECF) bleaching process uses chlorine dioxide rather than chlorine gas, reducing the amount of harmful dioxins that exit from the paper mill. Of the three types of bleaching methods, ECF is the most common.
Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) refers to papers that have been recycled and processed without the use of chlorine. The PCF bleaching process is more environmentally friendly than ECF.
Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) indicates that no chlorine compounds have been used in the bleaching process. Oxygen-based compounds, including hydrogen peroxide, are used to whiten the paper instead. The TCF designation applies only to virgin papers, as it’s impossible to know if recycled content has been previously bleached. Papers with any PCW content cannot be designated TCF.
As with the purchase of non-recycled, “virgin” paper, there is a wide range of costs associated with recycled papers. In general, coated papers with a higher PCW content are the most expensive, especially in text and cover weights. The good news is that there are many choices available for all weights, finishes, colors, hues and brightnesses. Your printing- and direct-mail-services providers can help you select a paper that best balances your recycled content needs with your budget.
Start with the forest
The sustainable environmental stewardship movement that’s gaining traction focuses on the responsible use of natural resources. For paper-manufacturing purposes, that means proper forest-management practices for landowners. There are two competing organizations that seek to improve the quality of sustainable forestry, and each tackles the task of responsible forestry differently.
The Sustainable Forestry Initiative program, developed by the American Forest & Paper Association, is designed for use in the United States and Canada. SFI is intended to spur both public and private forest owners to meet standards for the environmentally responsible use of their land, with an emphasis on reforestation.
The Forest Stewardship Council, on the other hand, is aimed at promoting responsible use of forest products from raw material through finished product. As a global organization, the standards adhered to by FSC members vary, but participation requires that forests and forest products are managed in “exemplary” fashion.
In addition to landowners, FSC offers certification to any company that sells timber or forest products as part of its “Chain of Custody” program. Any companies that sell products from FSC-certified sources can use the FSC label and note that their products are FSC-certified.
If your organization determines that using paper produced by FSC or SFI members is important to its environmental stewardship initiatives, keep in mind that not all companies in the print production cycle may be members. FSC and SFI membership primarily is concentrated in landowners, foresters, paper mills and other manufacturers of wood-based products.
The bottom line is that both organizations have the same goal: to create a comprehensive set of principles that seek to meet the need for forestry products in our economy while protecting and conserving the environment. To learn more, ask your suppliers about programs their paper vendors have in place.
A word about soy inks
Recycled paper is only part of the equation if you’re looking to create environmentally friendly fundraising communications. Vegetable-based inks, such as soy inks, have been shown to greatly reduced the output of volatile organic compounds compared with petroleum-based inks.
As with recycled papers, vege-table oil-based inks constantly are being improved in terms of consistency, color accuracy, drying time and cost. In addition to soy inks, which are the most popular vegetable-based inks, your printer might have rapeseed or linseed oil-based inks available for use with both recycled and non-recycled papers.
The combination of technology advancements and a greater public emphasis on sustainable forestry initiatives have made it easier than ever to use environmentally friendly papers and inks. In fact, many text, cover and colored papers produced today contain small percentages of PCW, as the practice of processing recycled papers becomes more widespread and economical.
The first and most important step in making a commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship is to become a knowledgeable buyer. Armed with comprehensive information and with the guidance of a conscientious printing- and direct-mail-services provider your organization can balance important environmental concerns with your budget.
Crystal Uppercue is the marketing manager for Rockville, Md.-based direct-marketing production facility EU Services. Contact: 800.230.3362, ext. 6373.