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A practical guide to picking the right paper products for your office

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Forests are good for us, in many different ways. Forests are the lungs of our earth, taking in carbon dioxide and “breathing” out oxygen. They provide us with fresh air; they give us space to spend our leisure time and revitalise ourselves; they provide a habitat for wildlife and a home for some. Most of us know this and understand the importance of protecting these landscapes but how can we do it? Being aware of the issues and having good intentions are the first steps. But what is the right action to take? And which of the plethora of environmental labels give you the information you need to make the right decision?

FIRST RULE: Use less!
Using less paper and card-based products saves money and the earth’s resources. Use both sides of the paper, set your printer to duplex mode. Use a cloth to wipe up rather than a piece of disposable kitchen towel. Or for products such as files and folders, buy a quality product which will last longer rather than having to buy two. We are using four times more paper in the world today than we did fifty years ago. We need to take pressure off our forests and ensure there is enough paper for all to use.

SECOND RULE: Recycled is usually the best option!
When actually buying a paper product, the basic rule is easy to remember! It is best not to have to fell a tree in the first place! So choosing a product made of recycled fibres is your best bet. In particular for consumables, such as tissues, toilet paper and kitchen roll, which are used once and then disposed of. But this ground rule can also be followed for many other every day products in the office. From copy paper to files and folders, there are many available made completely or largely of recycled fibres.

THIRD RULE: If you are buying fresh fibres, look for signs of responsible forestry!
It is not always possible to select products made of recycled fibres. Sometimes what we want to buy is not available made of recycled fibres. Recycling also makes the fibres shorter and shorter each time, which also means that they are not as strong. Sometimes we need fresh (or virgin) fibres to get the strength we need, brighter colours or a smooth surface that can be printed on. And not to worry, virgin fibres are also important for the system. Fibres cannot be indefinitely recycled and we need to add fresh fibres to keep the system going. So using fresh fibres for the right needs is the right way to go. But, the key is to ensure that fresh fibres used in any products have come from a responsibly managed forest, where the timber which is felled is regenerated and the natural habitats are maintained. It is also of course vital, that when finished with, the product is recycled!

Many products carry a claim that a percentage of the fibres used are recycled. However it is always comforting to be able to trust in a third party which has examined the products according to set criteria. There are various labels available, this is what the key ones mean:

For recycled products, look for these labels:


For products made using fresh fibres, look for the following labels:


The power really is in your hands! By selecting the right materials for the right job you are helping to save the earth’s resources and encouraging manufacturers to supply responsible products! So go out and choose wisely!

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