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- Agri-fiber paper
Paper made from non-wood agricultural fiber. These fibers fall into three main categories:
- dedicated fiber crops grown specifically for use in paper products such as such as hemp, bamboo, or kenaf,
- agricultural residues diverted from the farming waste stream (see definition of agricultural residues below),
- industrial residues leftover as byproducts of other fabrication processes.
Because each source of agri-fiber has different environmental requirements and impacts, there is no simple answer to the question, “which is better?” But choosing agri-fiber papers based on regional logistics can often reduce the environmental footprint of the project, and is recommended as a potential area of savings.
- Agricultural Residue
The unused remains of food crops such as wheat, flax, or corn, that are often disposed of by burning in the field, creating air pollution. In North America million tons of agricultural residues are produced annually. 1 As a by-product of the primary food crop, agricultural residue does not add to the agricultural footprint or reduce the availability of food crops. Selling this fiber to paper mills can reduce air pollution, save trees by replacing wood fiber for making paper, and increase farm earnings. This is currently the most sustainable source for paper fiber and our favorite.
- “Canopy’s Second Harvest Campaign.” Canopy.
The ability of a substance to be broken down by biological agents, such as bacteria and other enzymes, into basic components. Although there is no universal definition or certification regarding biodegradability, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, has issued the following guideline in its Guide for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims: “A marketer making an unqualified degradable claim should have competent and reliable scientific evidence that the entire item will completely break down and return to nature (i.e., decompose into elements found in nature) within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal.” 1
- “Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims (‘Green Guides’) .” 2012. Federal Register Notices Vol. 77, No. 197. 16 CFR Part 260. Federal Trade Commission.
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
CO2 is a naturally occurring odorless and colorless gas in the earth’s atmosphere. Together with other greenhouse gases (like methane and nitrous oxide), CO2 contributes to climate change by absorbing the sun’s natural radiation and reflecting it back to the earth’s surface. Although CO2 occurs naturally through processes like photosynthesis, human-caused CO2 emissions have increased dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. The burning of fossil fuels, industrial manufacturing, and other everyday acts all contribute to carbon dioxide levels, in turn contributing to climate change.
- Carbon Footprint
The total amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride) emitted over the full life cycle of a product, service, organization, or individual. Carbon footprints in the era of global warming are to be avoided, however to know an exact footprint is challenging as calculations vary wildly, but the most commonly accepted standard is the GHG Protocol developed by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Simplified calculators to aid self-awareness are available from Climate Crisis and the Environmental Protection Agency, but more rigorous methodologies like the GHG Protocol should be used for organizational reporting and decision-making.
- Carbon Neutrality
The state of balancing one’s carbon emissions with an equivalent in carbon offsets. The term is misleading, however, as it implies that one’s greenhouse gas emissions can be rendered harmless by investing in an equivalent amount of offset units (see carbon offsetting), and is often used to directly imply that a product or organization emits no greenhouse gases at all. Re-nourish discourages the use of the term on marketing materials or in messaging claims.
- Carbon Offsetting (or Carbon Credits)
The act of investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gas production through the purchase of carbon offset units. A single carbon offset unit is equivalent to one metric ton of carbon dioxide (or its equivalent in other greenhouse gases). Individuals and organizations can purchase carbon offsets as a way of mitigating the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from everyday practices like travel, energy use, and waste disposal.
Typically the money from carbon offsetting goes toward funding renewable energy, energy efficiency projects, or GHG sequestration. The U.S. government regulates certain corporate carbon offsets through cap and trade agreements, while the voluntary offset market is growing.
There is much debate about the efficacy of carbon offsetting; proponents argue that it can help drive awareness by placing a monetary value on carbon emissions, while opponents argue that voluntary offset programs may actually increase carbon emissions by providing an excuse to consume more. Essentially it can allow one company to buy the rights to pollute more from another and not actually decreasing, in the end, any carbon in the atmosphere.
E-waste, or electronic waste, refers to electronic devices that are near the end of their useful life, and are classified as universal waste. Certain components of some electronic products contain hazardous contaminants such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and beryllium, and when thrown away, end up in landfills or incinerators. If informally processed, e-waste can cause serious health and pollution problems. Currently, electronic waste is one of the fastest growing areas of our planet’s waste stream.
- Greenhouse Gas
Emitted gases that trap solar radiation, contributing to destruction of the ozone layer and climate change. The most common greenhouse gases are those recognized by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.
The act of misrepresenting one’s behavior or product to appear more environmentally sound that it may in fact be. The term, derived from the words “green” (environmentally sound) and “whitewashing” (to conceal or gloss over wrongdoing), is generally applied when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being eco-friendly, rather than actually implementing environmentally sound practices. Greenwashing can include focusing on one environmental benefit while ignoring the other harmful impacts, making unsubstantiated claims of being sustainable, or outright lying about environmental benefits or certifications.
This is a toxic liquid that is produced when rainwater filters through landfill waste and reacts with the chemicals and other materials in the waste. Leachate can enter groundwater sources, posing significant environmental and health problems as a result.
- Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)
LCA is a technique to evaluate the environmental impacts associated with the creation of a product, process, or service. Life Cycle Analysis is assessed by inventory analysis, impact analysis and improvement analysis where material inputs and environmental outputs are thoroughly examined. There are software and companies that specialize in this analysis.
Reducing the overall mass of the packaging. Lightweighting can mean replacing the package material itself with a lighter weight alternative and/or reducing the amount of packaging material needed.
- Monoculture plantation
The practice of growing one single crop over a wide area. In forestry it refers to the planting of one species of tree crop without biodiversity. To ensure that only one species of tree grows, the trees are usually sprayed with harsh chemicals, contaminating local waterways and communities with devastating effects on wildlife and human health. Monocultures are rarely good for our natural environment.
- Post-consumer Waste (PCW)
Paper or paper products that have reached the consumer before being discarded and collected again for recycling. For example, paper and cardboard collected from a curbside recycling program are considered to be post-consumer waste. PCW paper products have a longer life cycle than simply “recycled” paper products, with less of an environmental impact overall. Products made with PCW paper are usually labeled as such, and the more PCW content, the better.
- Pre-consumer Waste
Paper and paperboard waste collected during manufacturing or printing that never actually made it to the consumer. It includes scraps, trimmings, make-ready sheets, and unused copies which may have been over-ordered or over-printed. Products made with any amount of pre-consumer waste paper can be labeled as “recycled” therefore be sure to look for products that include the highest amount of recycled content.
Right-sizing reduces packaging materials by designing a box that minimizes empty space while still protecting the product inside. This design approach will help save natural resources in manufacture of the packaging and the ensuing transport of the products.
The waste material left over after pulping and deinking in the papermaking or recycling process. Although some sludge is produced in the virgin papermaking process, far more is produced in the de-inking process before recycling. Other materials that drop into the sludge include clay coatings, fillers from the previous paper, paper clips and staples, fibers too short to be made into paper, left-over ink, etc. To avoid sludge, minimizing ink coverage on a printed piece can help.
- Triple Bottom Line
The pursuit of growth that is in balance with ecological, social and economic needs.
A term coined by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, upcycle refers to the process of converting a material into something of similar or greater value in its second life.
- Virgin tree fiber
Virgin tree paper is made using 100% brand-new pulp. The methods used to harvest trees for paper production are endangering the survival of forests all over the world. Logging companies engage in clearcutting forests, which involves the felling, and removal of all trees from a given tract of forest.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Carbon compounds that evaporate or vaporize readily under normal conditions. Indoors they can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, liver and damage, and issues with our central nervous system. VOCs are also suspected to cause cancer in humans. VOCs such as methane, contain greenhouse gases which contribute to increased global warming. In the graphic design profession, VOCs can be found most readily in printing inks, toners, plastics, and adhesives.
- Zero waste
Zero waste suggests that the entire concept of waste should be eliminated. It means considering the entire life-cycle of products and services from the design phase with waste prevention in mind. Using recycled or compostable materials that are again recycled or composted after use are just two strategies that can help lead to a zero waste design project.