Paper is paper many may think. If you have two business cards in front of you, same weight, same finish, you may question if there is any difference between the two. Well, how about which paper mill they came from?
I’d bet it’s not very often that you are looking at your business card, or a brochure, and think, I wonder if this paper was harvested sustainably? Or, were the employees who helped to make this paid a livable wage? Or, does the mill that made this paper pollute into the surrounding communities? In reality, you probably are more focused on the content which is printed on the medium. If you are the one who purchased the printed product, you are likely even more concerned about the price you pay. But should you also be asking the other questions?
With the recent economic downturn, many printing companies are searching for ways that they are able to save money. Often times, cost cutting comes in the form of importing paper goods from paper mills overseas. Mills in developing countries like China offer cheaper paper products than many of the North American based mills.
Cheaper paper is a good thing right? Well, not always. The lower price of the imported paper comes with environmental and social costs. These developing countries are having rampant deforestation and pollution problems as a result of the foresting and milling industries. With little to no safeguards in place, forests are being destroyed and not replaced, and pollution of rivers and air is severe in some spots. Not to mention, the price of importing paper products is not always even that much cheaper. The cost of shipping and managing the goods for their delivery adds up to be a significant cost.
Compared to the North American milling practices, the difference is almost night and day. The paper mills located in North America, mostly in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest, are required to practice sustainable milling. This means trees are always replanted, and local waterways and air are not polluted. Not to mention, the capital investments in local communities are able to keep economies strong.
So next time you are buying a printed good, remember that not all paper products are the same. Your purchase of those goods has an effect on the lives of others. While not all foreign mills practice unethical business, buying paper made from North American mills will ensure you received sustainably made goods.
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