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How much more does sustainable print cost?

How much more does sustainable print cost?

In the past, "eco-friendly" or "sustainable" paper has both cost too much and been a real compromise on quality. Is that still the case?

Q: Does it cost more to print on sustainable paper?

A: In monetary terms, Yes!

Q. Why?

A. That's what this blog is all about. Read on, and you will see if it's worth it.

In this blog we will look at:

  • What eco-friendly paper types are out there
  • Price differences between those papers
  • Quality differences
  • Difference in prices
  • Which is the most sustainable and viable option

What types of eco-friendly paper are there?

There are several types of eco-friendly paper options available for printing. Here are the top four:

  1. FSC-Certified Paper: The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification ensures that the paper comes from responsibly managed forests, promoting sustainable practices in forest management. In fact, for every tree cut down to make the paper, a new tree is planted. This is a must for any paper claiming to be sustainable.
  2. 100% Recycled Paper: Made from post-consumer waste, recycled paper reduces the demand for virgin wood pulp. 100% recycled paper is ideal for newsprint and some types of packaging; however, it's not ideal for most print. Contrary to what you would think, it's actually more sustainable for most paper to be mostly recycled rather than exclusively. 
  3. Tree-Free Paper: These papers are made from alternative fibres like hemp, bamboo, sugarcane, or cotton. They don't require the cutting down trees and are often produced using fewer chemicals and water. We are in the early stages of seeing these available at a sensible price point.
  4. Carbon-Balanced Paper: The environmental impact of your paper materials is offset (balanced) through the protection and restoration of endangered woodland and habitats. How? The World Land Trust (WLT) Carbon Balanced programme balances emissions through the protection of forests that are imminently threatened, the destruction of which would release greenhouse gases, and through the restoration of forest habitats, which sequester atmospheric carbon as they grow. 

Quality differences of sustainable paper options

Ok, quality is somewhat subjective and determined by usage, so bear with us here!

FSC Paper: The reality is most paper purchased in Europe is FSC paper. So unless you're buying it from China in huge volumes (in which case this isn't the blog for you!), your paper is already incredibly sustainable and is a true champion of the circular economy. 

100% recycled paper: We are not big fans of this! Unless it's for a newspaper or certain types of packaging, it's simply a compromised paper type. The use of virgin fibres ensures the strength and quality of paper, so it doesn't make sense to exclude them. 

Tree-free paper: These sound cool for sure, and for certain applications such as craft, they are a great choice. They feel distinctly different and certainly stand out. 

Carbon-balanced paper: The quality here is exactly the same as FSC paper, as that's what it is. Carbon balancing isn't in the process of producing the paper, but in what's done after - you are helping to preserve and protect endangered, carbon-rich habitats through the work of the World Land Trust. Choosing carbon-balanced means choosing to actively make a positive impact on the environment now.

Price differences between eco-friendly paper options

For ease, let's rank the paper types in order of lowest price:

  1. FSC certified paper
  2. Carbon-balanced paper
  3. 100% recycled paper
  4. Tree-free paper

As paper prices are more unpredictable than British weather, putting prices here wouldn't be that accurate or helpful. 

What is essential is to consider the usage. In virtually all uses, FSC paper is a must if you want to be remotely sustainable, and the reality is you've probably been printing on it for years, even if you hadn't noticed! 

Carbon-balanced paper goes one (incredible) step further - a contribution is made to the World Land Trust (which Sir David Attenborough has been the Patron of for over 20 years) to support their worldwide conservation projects.

100% recycled paper is by no means worth the extra cost. Not only is the quality compromised, but the reality is that making 100% paper (other than for newspapers and some packaging) is unsustainable compared to standard FSC paper. 

At the moment, the likes of hemp paper and other tree-free papers are only viable in small volumes, volumes for personal use such as writing love letters to your spouse. Even Elon Musk would gulp if you quoted him for a hemp paper leaflet distribution campaign!

Which is the most sustainable and viable option?

In our view, the most sustainable paper option is carbon-balanced paper. You get all the benefits of FSC paper, with (for a nominal price difference) you get to make a real difference to our climate, too. 

What's more, as we are an accredited Carbon-Balanced printer, we get to award you with a World Land Trust certificate, which includes a calculation of how much habitat you've protected and how many kg of CO2 you've balanced (offset). To spread the word, we will also provide you with social media collateral - we hope you can inspire others to go green too!

In conclusion, while it may cost slightly more to print sustainably, the benefits of doing so are undeniable. By using carbon-balanced paper, you can help combat climate change, protect biodiversity, and demonstrate your commitment to a greener future. 

So why not make the switch and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're making a positive impact? Get in touch with us today.

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