The Greenest Event of Them All, Part 6: Paper Use

Paper Mill, Powell River, British Columbia

Paper Mill, Powell River, British Columbia

Last week I waxed about waste management systems, this week I will focus in on how to manage and source paper.

Event organizers will recognize two distinct uses of paper. Internal paper is paper which is intended to be used in-office, from daily memos, white papers and meeting information to event-time score sheets, news briefs and other postings (for example, those tacked on corkboards or handed to announcers).

External paper is intended for printing tickets, spectator information, maps, annual reports and other public company filings leading up to the Event. External printing normally requires special paper, sizing and/or finishing and may either be purchased through local or national print shops.

Although you will likely have the most control over internal print jobs, realize you can select which external print shops you use as well. Harvested trees are sent to a few, very large mills North America, located mostly on the East Coast. Print shops throughout the country then purchase paper from these mills for commercial jobs. Events like the Vancouver Olympics face one of two options to external paper purchasing: a) have the finished printed materials shipped from an East-Coast print shop, or b) purchase from a local Vancouver print shop which has sourced paper from the East Coast. From a socially-minded (and ā€“ perhaps ā€“ environmentally friendly) viewpoint, the Vancouver Olympics has chosen to support local jobs by sending external paper requests through Vancouver-based print shops. Some shops, in addition to providing jobs, also guarantee FSC certified processes and other environmental benefits such as carbon emission offsets.

Internal paper stock is critical for your organization to manage effectively. Using recycled paper is one of the surest ways to communicate and cultivate an environmental ethos in the workplace or at your event. According to http://www.papercalculator.org, a simple tool developed by the Environmental Defense Fund, 1 ton of paper (about 100 reams at 20lbs per ream) containing 30% recycled content will save 3 tons of wood biomass, 0.4 tons of carbon, and over 3,000 gallons of water compared to 1 ton of virgin paper stock.

However, many unsubstantiated myths continue to lambast recycled paper for commercial purposes. Simply put, complaints of paper jams, attraction to dust, and shoddy texture are symptoms from the past; with 20+ years of recycling technology improvements, even 100% recycled paper can be used successfully in any office setting. Some of these views were expanded in the Conservatree Paper Listening Study from 2003 ā€“ 2009, found here: http://www.conservatree.org/paperlisteningstudy/RecyEquip/envgroups.htm.

Use simple tools like these to convey the environmental benefits to your procurement division when sourcing paper for your event. Recycled content may or may not cost more depending on your location, but hopefully the benefit of sending a strong environmental message will make the selection a no-brainer.