As a designer, the importance of making informed decisions when selecting paper stocks is becoming more and more important. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand and hope that someone else is looking after the health of our planet. Our recent trip to Perth by some of the team at Jack in the box to attend Spicers’ Paper School only served to reinforce this view.

Producing paper is an energy intensive process, using many chemicals which can potentially harm the surrounding environment, not to mention the environment from where the woodchips are sourced. The process can also yield a high volume of waste, which if not managed correctly goes to landfill. When selecting stock for a fancy new design, it is important to consider all of these factors.

Luckily for us there are now many organisations worldwide who have taken this onboard and have created certifications, with strict requirements, that paper companies can apply for. Labels such as FSC and PEFC can help us determine if the woodchips have been sourced from a sustainable source. A paper product with the ECF and TCF will have been bleached without the use of chlorine, or with chlorine dioxide instead – which has been proved to have less impact on the environment. And it doesn’t just stop there, the IPPC, EMAS and ISO 14001 are committed to monitoring and minimising air, water and soil pollution through Environmental Management Systems. There is also the Recycled logo we all know so well, which can be used if the product contains any recovered materials, though generally the paper company will specify the percentage of recycled paper pulp in the product. The higher the percentage the better the news for the environment.

Of course a graphic design agency does not want to compromise a great design to a poor quality stock. With a bit of research you will soon discover that not all enviro-friendly papers are fibrous and brown. In fact high quality, super white papers can be more environmentally friendly than some of their more ‘ recycled‘ looking counterparts.

If designers as a whole take this on their shoulders and demand environmentally friendly stock, the paper companies will have no choice but to use more recycled material, less impacting chemicals and source their woodchips from sustainable resources. It is our job as designers to select stock that will not only make our work shine but will have less impact on the world we live in.