I had no idea how much there is to know about paper and its level of “greenness.” SFI, FSC, GreenSeal, iSeal … 30% post-consumer material, 75% recycled, 100% post-consumer fiber.
Well, I started out by searching for definitions of what each means and who is behind each one – and I quickly found out that I am not alone in being surprised and confused. Greener World Media suggests that we need a new forum, a “Consumer Reports” for green issues and products, for people to gather information they can trust. (And I immediately started wondering if they are putting themselves forward as the answer to that need, and are they, themselves, trustworthy?)
Because that’s what came of my initial research – cynicism. How do you know who to trust? Turns out SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) is certification from an organization founded by the lumber industry. Sounds like a conflict of interest there, doesn’t it? How trustworthy is that? And the SFI symbol is the one I see most often in catalogs … and now I’m suspicious of it! (See what a little learning will get you?) But then I remind myself that being of the industry doesn’t automatically mean it’s deceptive, I mean, who has a bigger interest in keeping the forests healthy and growing than the people who make their living off them? (Is that naive? Probably. I can’t even totally convince myself.)
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is similar to SFI, but it’s a non-profit started one year before SFI. Coincidence? I think not! It sounds like once a non-profit started looking into forestry practices, the forestry industry apparently started their own program. FSC was started by environmentalists, but, alas, they, too, get the vast majority of their funding from – you got it, forestry companies.
The question remains, even assuming both FSC and SFI are reputable and reliable indicators of how the trees were grown and harvested: Does sustainable forestry guarantee the “greenest” end product? They would like you to think so, but no, it really doesn’t – a seal of approval from either of these groups does not mean there is recycling going on in the production of the paper.
So what else do you need to know to make the best choice?
Next time – is there a difference between post-consumer product and post-consumer fiber? Is 100% recycled 3-times as green as 35% recycled? Or is it like SPF where once you’re above something like 30 it really doesn’t make any difference?
Note: Information about SFI & FSC origins and funding from this article. I didn’t check the accuracy of its claims because I was getting tired from all this research.