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So you're using recycled content copier paper in your office, and your printer used recycled paper for your latest report. You're doing good - but you wonder if there is more you can do.

Or maybe you don't work in an office. Are there still environmental paper choices for you?

Well, do you send cards for the holidays? Look for the most artistic, unique gifts? Wrap presents for birthdays? Buy calendars for the New Year? Keep a datebook? Write or sketch in a journal? Still write letters on stationery?

Maybe you're getting married or you're announcing a new baby. Maybe your kids need more notebooks at school. Maybe you're reorganizing your office space and need new hanging and file folders. Or, if you've gone all-out green, your organic garden needs mulching and your composting worms need new bedding - not to mention your cat needs new kitty litter.

Keep in mind that the best way to reduce negative impacts on the environment is to reduce unnecessary use of products. So you might send e-cards to some friends and reuse a decorated bag for gifts. Nevertheless, there are lots of times when you will, indeed, send gifts, cards or announcements, or need office products.

Good news then - you're in luck! Environmental paper choices exist for all of these products and many more.



By far, the largest array of environmental paper choices is in greeting and holiday cards. Check those cards at your local drugstore or cardshop. Three of Hallmark's lines have recycled content - Shoebox Greetings, My Thoughts Exactly, and Comedy Club. You'll find a number of specialized lines in retail stores, as well, such as Leanin' Tree's Western and Native American art, Peaceable Kingdom's illustrations from favorite children's books, Pomegranate's photos and illustrations, and exclusive artist lines from Recycled Paper Greetings. Lots more are available online and through the mail.

You can send cards for the holidays and support your favorite cause by buying recycled content cards that benefit groups like the Sierra Club, Audubon, UNICEF, Ducks Unlimited, or even the National Railroad Museum and the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum.

Sports? Try the National Golf Association or U.S. Sailing. Both on recycled paper.

"Holidays" are not limited - the more the better! There are cards for whatever means the most to you, with inspirational zen messages from Brushdance accompanied by unique artwork, celebration cards from Alternatives for Simple Living, and Solstice cards from Rossetti Designs. You can plant the cards from Green Field Paper Company and grow the seeds embedded in them, or see how they turn junk mail into something useful. Many of these sources and a lot more have year-round greeting cards and note cards, as well.

Getting married? We're often asked where to get wedding invitations printed on environmental paper. What a delight to find several suppliers of both invitations and announcements, including stock and custom designs!

While almost all the greeting and holiday cards on our list have some recycled content, there are choices that add in tree free fibers, as well. Green Field Paper Company has a line of cards with 25% hemp. Tree-Free Greetings' wildlife and spectacular fantasy cards include kenaf or flax. And if none of the huge selection of photographs, artwork, line drawings or messages on all these cards is quite right for you, Ecosource lets you create your own cards on paper that combines flax, hemp and cotton, with matching envelopes. Greg Barber Company will print your own designs on a wide array of environmental papers, including chlorine free.

The paper used for greeting and holiday card production usually falls within two types: uncoated cover weight paper (meaning no glossy finish) and coated-one-side paper (known as C1S). C1S paper, as the name implies, is coated on one side, usually with a gloss surface, so the full color reproduction of photos and artwork stands out. The other side is not coated so that the sender can easily write on it with a ball point or felt tip pen.

Some may comment that the recycled content on some cards and products seems low. In fact, the papers used for the cards listed here reflect the state of recycled content papers today. Most mills making recycled paper at least meet the de facto standard used nationally of 30% postconsumer for uncoated papers, 10% postconsumer for coated papers. A few are under it, many exceed it, and a few go all the way to 100% recycled postconsumer. Ultimately, we would like to see higher postconsumer contents in card papers. But at this point, given that the vast majority of cards have no recycled content whatsoever, all these companies are worth celebrating and supporting for stepping up to the environmental plate.

From small note card businesses that exclusively use 100% postconsumer recycled content or tree-free papers to very large publishers and distributors of greeting cards which produce at least some of their card lines with recycled content, the choices for cards on environmental papers are growing. Most of the cards label their environmental content on the back, although not all do.

Unfortunately, the recycling logo without an accompanying text explanation has been so misused that it is not a guarantee of recycled content. Often it only means that the card can be put into a recycling collection system when it's discarded - a good candidate for the "Duh!" award. Text that tells the actual environmental content is more reliable.

Gift Wrap Paper

Environmental paper choices suddenly shrink when looking for gift wrap. You can buy unique designs on tree free paper from Ecosource. You may also have more access to recycled content gift wrap than you realize. The Sally Foster gift wrap that many schools sell as a fundraiser includes several designs on strong, high quality recycled paper, designated in the catalog by recycling logos (with an explanation in the back pages).

Gift wrap is a "converted" product. This means that the producer buys large rolls of paper from a paper mill to print the gift wrap designs and then cuts the printed paper down into the rolls and flat folded papers with which we're all familiar. Sadly, most of the major converters and distributors of gift wrap use a type of bleached packaging paper that has very little environmental content production.

So it is especially good to show consumer demand for recycled content gift wrap paper whenever you can find it, especially since most is one-time-use only. Of course, you can create the "environmental content" yourself by reusing paper for gift wrap or even using the Sunday comics.


Can you imagine a clock made out of corrugated boxes? Okay, now can you imagine it being one of the most intriguing, beautiful artworks you've ever seen tell time? Maybe you'd rather have unique picture frames or a backgammon board or even innovative tables. You have to see Luci Lytle's recycled corrugated art, made from "found" corrugated boxes that Luci finds exquisite ways to reuse. Conservatree has given the clocks as awards to high-achieving environmental paper buyers and we've been impressed with their beauty and sturdiness.


The biggest, and most surprising, hole we found in environmental paper options was in wall calendars. Despite the overwhelming proliferation of beautiful, cute, fascinating, artistic, humorous, sexy, scientific, religious, cosmic, hobby-related, and all other types of calendars you can choose from, almost none of them are printed on any kind of environmental paper. Most shocking of all, even most of the calendars from environmental groups, as well as nature calendars with messages about conservation and pictures of endangered animals, beautiful landscapes and even national parks and endangered forests, are all printed on 100% virgin forest fiber! No recycled content at all.

The biggest reason for this lack, after "I've never thought about it," seems to be the extremely high incidence of printing these calendars in Asia because of lower costs. Some of the calendar publishers, especially ones that have licensing agreements with environmental groups, actually have tried to request recycled paper for their Asian production. A couple believe they have gotten it. But when Conservatree investigated, the answers we got about the paper content from the printers, passed through the publishers, were much too vague to suggest that they truly were using recycled paper, or they were clear that they were not.

For this reason, the publishers that have made sure their calendars are on recycled paper - Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, and WildLight Press - are especially to be commended. We have heard of some local and state park calendars on recycled paper, as well, but have not gotten enough response yet to track them down. The key to ensuring recycled paper, particularly with postconsumer content, seems to be to print the calendars in North America. However, we recognize the economic incentive for many of the calendar publishers to print in Asia and are researching environmental papers from Japan, Korea and other countries that publishers could require.

Calendar production is planned a year ahead of time, so let your favorite calendar suppliers know now that you expect them to print their next ones on recycled paper.

Meanwhile, be sure not to be fooled by words on the back of the calendar that say it's "recyclable." That just means that it could be put into a recycling collection system, if there's one available near you. Instead, look for a notation that it is "printed on recycled paper," or better yet that it includes "postconsumer content." The Wilderness Society even uses paper that is processed chlorine free. Even so, we found calendars that say they're printed on recycled paper that are, in fact, unlikely to be true. If they're not on our list, check with us and we'll see if the content can be verified. If so, we'll be glad to add them to our list!

One positive note - Any lingering doubts about image reproduction quality on recycled content paper has disappeared. Unlike in years past, we did not encounter any complaint that recycled paper quality is inferior to virgin paper.


There has been a major push over the past couple of years to get recycled and environmental paper products into office retail stores such as Staples, Office Depot and Office Max. ForestEthics and Dogwood Alliance have led the negotiations, with lots of other groups supporting them. Some office products have long offered recycled paper options, and more are now becoming available.

Popular brands such as At-A-Glance, House of Doolittle, Esselte, Ampad, Globe Weis, Pendaflex, Smead, Oxford, Avery, Ecology, and Tops have recycled content lines of calendars, appointment books, file folders, hanging folders, notepads, and spiral pads, as well as other products. Staples and Office Depot have their own recycled content house brands for some products. And you can write a check for your purchases on recycled content checks from The Check Gallery or Message Products.

You still have to look on many of the products for text saying that they're made with recycled content. Most are not promoted, although when you start looking, you're likely to find that there are a lot more choices than you thought. Sometimes the environmental paper option is the best price. Other times it's more expensive than the non-recycled competitor. Why not consider paying the difference, which is often small, on behalf of the environment? Making it clear that people want recycled and other environmental paper products will make them more available over time.


Seventh Generation has paper plates with 100% recycled/35% postconsumer content and they're chlorine free - the only paper plates with postconsumer content that we found. There are packaging products available to the public that have recycled content, and there is mulch, worm bedding and kitty litter. We haven't listed any yet, but we know that there is insulation made from recycled paper. Conservatree is researching and preparing a guide for tissue and paper towel products that we plan to have available soon.

We expect our list to be constantly dynamic and growing. By no means is it comprehensive and we never want it to be final. If you provide an environmental paper product or know of a good source, send us an e-mail about it and we'll consider it for inclusion. Inclusion does not imply product endorsement, but it does celebrate the product's environmental attributes. Your purchases of environmental paper products celebrate them, too, and head us all in the direction of environmentally sustainable paper production. Thanks!


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