Did you know that recycling a single ton of paper can save 7000 gallons of water, 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 3 cubic yards of landfill space and 4000 kilowatts of energy!? Statistics like these were key points at a sustainable print and paper workshop at the London Design Festival’s sustainability hub, Greengaged. The workshop, hosted by UK-based nonprofit enterprise Three Trees Don’t Make a Forest, set out to explore how different print processes affect the paper’s recyclability, and how you can reduce the impact through the design process.
The Three Trees, Sophie Thomas (thomas.matthews), Nat Hunter (Airside) and Caroline Clark (Lovely as a Tree) were joined by top sustainable print gurus and business leaders Richard Owers from Beacon Press, Sion Whellens from Calverts Co-op and the immensely knowledgeable Jan Kuiper from Paperback, the recycled paper suppliers.
Sophie began the workshop with a discussion about the need for designer participation. She explained the need for designers to consider their ‘Sphere of Influence’ – to be aware of the wider impacts of their work: where the materials will comes from, the life-cycle of the piece, where it will end up, and how many people it will reach. When you receive a brief, she explained, question whether the solution really is a piece of print. Sophie elaborated with an anecdote: when Friends of the Earth approached her company, thomas.matthews, and asked them to design posters for ‘No Shop Day’, they re-thought the original print brief, and instead created the incredible No Shop store. The result was vastly more innovative, environmentally-sound and had a much greater impact for the client.
“If you have to, or you do decide that print is the best option,” she continued, “then it is time to approach your paper supplier and find out all you need to know about the selection on offer.” With that, Sophie introduced Jan Kuiper of Paperback.
In 1983 Kuiper, an ex-environmentalist turned paper distributer, set up Paperback, the first FSC-certified merchant, with an objective to close the paper-recycling loop. Kuiper discussed the environmental impacts of paper stating that “Deforestation is responsible for three-fourths of Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions, making the country the fourth largest climate polluter in the world.” Continuing his presentation, Kuiper explained paper eco-labeling, the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) and the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Council). He described the five-stage process to make paper, demonstrating that the pulp and paper process uses enormous amounts of energy and resources:
2. Pulp manufacture
3. Paper making
4. Finishing (cutting, coating..)
5. Design and print
After a cup of tea and a look through the paper samples, Richard Owers of Beacon Press took to the stand and underlined the impact of paper selection, explaining that the carbon footprint of a printed piece of work is 60-70% related to the paper. He recognized designers’ negative perception of recycled paper (“helping to save the environment means using recycled paper that is ‘ugly and of bad quality'”) and reassured skeptics: “You really do not need to compromise on cost or quality to save the environment.”
Sophie concluded the workshop commenting, “I can imagine that designers think ‘oh god, there’s nothing left but to have a piece of blank recycled paper, with a single fold and no ink; where’s the fun gone!?’ Well, for me, that’s the challenge – what can I do with what I’ve got?”
You can also see more photographs from the workshop here.