Eco-Friendly Paper is a Hard Decision

Kermit the Frog wasn’t referring to the environment when he crooned his It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green. Nevertheless, the beloved song easily applies to running a nature-friendly business. It’s not easy. In fact, sometimes it’s downright contradictory. I’m singing his tune today as I research paper choices for an upcoming map project.

My project is a poster (as in one you can soon buy—stay tuned!). My target markets are people who love being outdoors and care for the environment. Naturally, I want it printed on eco-friendly paper. My choices are vast, but generally they fall under three categories: recycled, FSC certified, and tree-free alternatives.

That’s where the simplicity ends. Like all eco-efforts, there’s no perfect solution in the paper world. Each comes with their pros and cons in regards to environmental impact.


Recycled paper is just what it says. It’s paper made from post-consumer paper waste. Giving paper a second life—five to seven lives, in fact, according to National Geographic— means we cut fewer trees and put less into landfills. Yet, most recycled paper requires de-inking and many are less than 100% recycled.

FSC Certified

FSC Certified is paper made under the guidelines of the Forest Stewardship Council. Described as an independent, non-profit organization, the FSC aims to protect forests by ensuring trees are managed in a sustainable way and monitoring the various chains of production. It also works to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. On the other hand, FSC-certified paper is typically made from virgin trees and is more expensive.


From cotton, to textiles, to agri-pulp, there’s a plethora of tree-free papers. Goodness, there’s even stone paper, a current trend in designer notebooks. Tree-free papers claim to be the most environmentally friendly on the market, yet they’re not without their drawbacks. For example, yes, that stone paper is made without trees, water, chlorine, acids, or petroleum, but according to this article, it also contains high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a synthetic plastic made from catalyzed natural gas byproducts.

So what’s a girl to do?

I’m doing what responsible shoppers do—I’m researching before I buy. I’m reading a broad range of information and talking with my trusted print agency. I realize no matter what paper I use, it won’t be perfect. Nonetheless, I’m confident any efforts of sustainability are better than none at all.

I can’t wait to show you!

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