The definitions and explanations below are based on both research and hands-on experience with the materials and processes described.
If you need further clarifications about the terms below, or feel a definition needs updating, please contact us.
- Agri-fiber paper
- Paper made from non-wood agricultural fiber, such as flax, hemp or kenaf. These fibers fall into three main categories: dedicated fiber crops grown specifically for use in paper products, agricultural residues diverted from the farming waste stream, and industrial residues leftover as byproducts of other manufacturing 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. Learn more at Conservatree.
- Agricultural residue
- The unused remains of plant crops that are often burned in the field, creating air pollution.
In North America over 200 million tons of agricultural residue goes unused (Markets Initiative). Selling this fiber to paper mills can reduce air pollution and save trees by replacing wood fiber for making paper.
- Ancient Forest Friendly
- Ancient Forest Friendly is a designation system offered by the Canadian nonprofit group Canopy. Paper bearing the Ancient Forest Friendly logo meets the "Superior" designation as outlined in the organization's paper hierarchy (also adopted by the Environmental Paper Network), and includes the following criteria:
- Contains at least 50% post-consumer content.
- Any virgin wood fiber must be from FSC-certified forests (with no controlled, or non-certified, wood).
- Paper is processed without the use of chlorine (PCF or TCF).
While Re-nourish considers the Ancient Forest Friendly mark to be the most sustainable paper indicator currently available, it's important to note that AFF papers may be less than 100% recycled content. That said, as of July 2010, virtually all of the AFF papers on the market are 100% recycled (though not necessarily 100% PCW).
- Aqueous Coating
- Aqueous coating is a water-based vegetable cellulose product used as an all-over clear coat to protect printed pieces from scuffing. Available in gloss, dull, or satin finish, it's applied on top of a printed piece during the press run, making it a cost effective coating option (since it doesn't require an additional pass through the press).
Aqueous is generally considered to be one of the most sustainable coating options because the formulas are nontoxic in the pressroom, and treated paper can be recycled in standard municipal systems without emitting harmful byproducts. The cleanup process does not require toxic cleaning detergents nor does it necessitate high temperatures (e.g. added energy) for drying. Other sustainable alternatives include clear vegetable-based ink in place of any coating.
- Bamboo Fiber
- Commonly thought of as an alternative to wood-based pulp, bamboo is a fast-growing grass with strong fibers ideal for paper. Bamboo is typically considered to be a fairly sustainable material in and of itself because it doesn't need to be replanted as new shoots continue to grow from the stump, and its extensive root system improves soil quality.
However, there are currently no monitoring or certification systems regulating the production of bamboo grown for paper. Much of this bamboo is grown on monoculture plantations converted from forestland, which decreases biodiversity. There is also increasing pressure to harvest wild bamboo, which will further endanger the biological life that depends on these forests for survival. Because traditional paper pulping mills in the U.S. are not equipped to process bamboo, much of this crop is pulped overseas, where environmental regulations are lacking. These mills often pollute waterways with contaminants like chlorinated effluent.
Re-nourish suggests avoiding bamboo fiber unless the designer can verify sustainable production practices for their particular source.
- The ability of a substance to be broken down by biological agents, such as bacteria and other enzymes, into basic components. Although there are no legal regulations regarding biodegradability in the U.S., the FTC has issued the following guideline in its Guide for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims: "An unqualified claim that a product or package is degradable, biodegradable or photodegradable should be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence that the entire product or package 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."
- Biomimicry is the practice and theory of designing systems and products based on nature's existing biological systems to solve human problems. For instance, velcro was conceived after analyzing how burs stuck to clothing after walking through a field. Further examples include the study of Australian and African termite mounds for their self-cooling design systems, and the development of self-cleaning paint based on the ridged/bumpy design of Lotus leaves. See the Biomimicry Institute for more information.
- Bioplastics are polymers made from agricultural products (e.g. corn-based polylactic acid, or PLA), and agricultural waste (like husks, stalks, leaves, and starch residues). These materials are growing in popularity as Americans try to reduce their dependency on foreign oil (conventional plastics rely heavily on petroleum). Although this idea seems promising, because bioplastics are theoretically biodegradable, there are a number of important issues that must be addressed.
Much of the corn used for PLA is genetically modified, which may raise serious sustainability and social issues. Additionally, most bioplastics are not currently compostable by typical residential backyard systems, or even many municipal systems. Some bioplastics may create a greater carbon footprint than plastic alternatives like PET when they end up in a landfill. Finally, there are significant social implications to bioplastics production. Using land designated for food may increase food prices as we saw in the summer of 2008 (Earth Policy). The harvesting of sugarcane for bioethanol, which is used as a base for polyethylene (PE) has significant impact on laborers (see Emma Raynes' documentation of Brazilian sugarcane workers).
The more appropriate approach to bioplastics is to treat them as a transitional option rather than a magic bullet: research agricultural waste as a means to produce more effectively composted polymers, self-educate about individual materials sources, and reduce the overall use of plastics in packaging decisions.
- Bleaching is a chemical process to make wood pulp brighter and/or whiter. The chemical process traditionally involves the use of chlorine gas, chlorine dioxide, hydrogen peroxide or ozone. Chlorine gas is the most environmental unfriendly of these options, as its use in the bleaching process releases soluble organochlorine compounds (including dioxins) into the environment. These compounds are deadly to wildlife living in proximity to the effluent released by manufacturers.
- Elemental chlorine-free (ECF) papers are lightened mainly with chlorine dioxide. This is slightly better than chlorine gas, but still results in harmful organochlorides.
- Totally chlorine-free (TCF) papers don't use chlorine at all, instead relying on hydrogen peroxide and sodium dithionite, which leaves a by-product of water and sodium sulfate (this is generally non-toxic but can lead to some eye irritation or temporary asthma if inhaled). This is certainly a better option than chlorine bleaching, but it's important to note that it only applies to virgin fiber.
- Processed chlorine-free (PCF) papers also use the hydrogen peroxide/sodium dithionite method. But because the PCF process is used on recycled content fiber, this process is the most environmentally preferable choice (after unbleached, of course).
- Carbon Dioxide
- A naturally occurring gas in the earth's atmosphere. Together with other greenhouse gases, 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 (source: EPA).
- 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 footprint 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 EPA, 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
- 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 (see carbon neutrality).
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 rapidly.
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. Research is scant in this area, but at least one study implies that offsets may not result in significant increased energy consumption (Source: SSIR).
- Certification and Eco-labeling
- The process of confirming the veracity of a particular set of environmental criteria and awarding a specific label to indicate such confirmation. According to the International Organization for Standardization, labeling systems fall into three types:
- Type 1: Third-party labels that cover multiple attributes (e.g. Green Seal or FSC). A variation of this includes third-party labels that cover a single attribute (e.g. EPA's Energy Star).
- Type 2: Self-declared labels that cover a single attribute (e.g. "Made from 100% recycled paper").
- Type 3: Labels (third party verified, though not necessarily certified) that quantify information based on a life-cycle assessment in order to compare one product with another (e.g. nutritional labels on food).
There are hundreds of certification and labeling systems currently available, each with varying levels of rigor. For help choosing an appropriate system, see the article How to Choose an Environmental Certification.
- Chemical Plates
- Chemical plates are printing plates that utilize many different chemicals in transferring an image to the plate for offset printing. Some chemicals involved include bromide, iodide, chloride, collodion, silver nitrate, iron sulfate, and acetic acid. These chemicals present harmful environmental side effects in their use and disposal.
- Combined heat and power (see co-generation, below).
- The process of generating secondary electrical power and/or thermal energy from waste heat. Standard industrial processes for producing energy or electrical power results in excess heat generation that is typically treated as a waste byproduct eliminated into the atmosphere. Cogeneration (also known as combined heat and power, or CHP) recovers and processes this heat into a usable secondary source of energy, thereby reducing the amount of fuel needed overall. Cogeneration systems can be installed as a dedicated power plant, or at the facility level (as in a private business or home).
- Clear Cutting
- A process in which all trees in a selected area are felled in a logging operation. The effect on the environment can be extremely devastating due to the destruction of fire-preventing buffer zones, loss of habitat for animals, insects and bacteria, increased global warming, and soil erosion.
- Cradle to Cradle
- A product and materials certification system developed by the firm MBDC. C2C-certified materials meet the following basic criteria:
- Made using environmentally safe and healthy materials.
- Designed for recycling or composting.
- Produced with renewable energy, and energy and water efficiency.
- Incorporates strategies for social responsibility.
Cradle to CradleSM also refers to a design system in which products are created within closed loops, resulting in a waste-free manufacturing process. Material inputs and outputs are seen either as technical or biological nutrients; technical nutrients can be recycled or reused with no loss of quality, while biological nutrients can be composted or consumed.
- The process of lifting ink from paper, enabling the used paper to be recycled into new sheets. Both chemical and mechanical means are typically used, and certain printing materials and processes make de-inking more or less difficult. See bleaching for additional information.
- Dioxins and Furans
- A highly toxic set of chemical compounds commonly produced by waste incineration, chlorine bleaching during pulp and paper-making, and other industrial processes. Dioxins are extremely toxic, persistent, and carcinogenic. Furans are chemically similar but an order of magnitude less toxic and less persistent than dioxins. In papermaking, dioxins and furans tend to accumulate more in the pulp itself than in the effluent.
- Elemental chlorine-free. ECF papers are lightened/whitened mainly with chlorine dioxide. A slightly better option than chlorine gas, this process nevertheless results in harmful organochlorides that are damaging to wildlife and other biological systems. See also: bleaching
- Ecological Footprint
- The measure of the planet's ability to support human demand of natural resources and impact on biological ecosystems. The term was developed by Mathis Wackernagel and William Rees in their 1996 publication Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth.
- A popular North American environmental labeling program originally developed by the Canadian government and now managed by TerraChoice. A type-1 label (see certification and eco-labeling), the EcoLogo also incorporates life cycle analysis. Although a paid certification system (with fees in the $1,500-$5,000 range), the EcoLabel is widely accepted as a valid labeling system that meets ISO 14024 standards.
- Elemental Chlorine-Free
- Elemental chlorine-free papers are lightened/whitened mainly with chlorine dioxide. A slightly better option than chlorine gas, this process nevertheless results in harmful organochlorides that are damaging to wildlife and other biological systems. See also: bleaching
- E-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, cadium, 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 nation's waste stream.
- Five R Framework
- A design methodology that argues that these five words beginning with "R" should be kept top of mind to ensure project sustainability: reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink, and replenish (renourish)
- A printing process considered to be the updated version of the letterpress, which utilizes flexible relief plates made of rubber or plastic. This process can be used for printing on almost any type of surface, and is frequently used on non-porous packaging products. The flexible plates are inked with fast-drying inks and rotated on a cylinder, transferring the raised image to the substrate. Flexography is well suited for printing continuous patterns, paper and plastic bags, envelopes, labels, newspapers, milk carton, candy bar wrappers, and printing large areas of solid color.
- FSC is an acronym for the Forest Stewardship Council, which is a certification system that provides standards and assurance that a wood product came from a sustainable managed forest. The FSC formed in 1993 to promote responsible forestry to prevent deforestation (or the complete loss of our forests), but does not certify directly, and instead relies on other organizations like Smartwood, Bureau Veritas, and Certiquality, etc. For a paper brand to be FSC-Certified, it must follow what is called a "chain of custody" process where the wood pulp was harvested responsibly from a FSC-certified forest, produced by a FSC-certified mill and finally used at a printer who is also FSC-certified. At this time, FSC is the only forest certification system endorsed by environmental groups internationally but not all FSC certified papers are equal. The three main certifications are the 100% label, mixed sources label, and recycled label. Re-nourish believes that the FSC is a positive step forward to prevent illegal logging and consequent deforestation by putting public pressure (through certification) on manufacturers to adhere to more stringent standards with their wood-based products. However the FSC is not perfect and mistakes are made. So, to put pressure on the FSC to close loopholes in their process please visit FSC Watch.
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which publishes guidance to help companies clarify which kinds of product labeling language would be regarded as appropriate and which are misleading, with potential for FTC investigation.
- Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
- Genetic material that has been altered by genetic engineering techniques where DNA from other organisms are combined into a molecule to create a new set of genes. Concerns over GMO are related to whether they are safe for human consumption, and if they will destroy (terminate) the original pure set of genes as they cross-pollinate. For more information, the film "The Future of Food" is a good medium to explain the GMO controversy.
- A common, though poorly defined, term generally meaning that something is environmentally-preferable. Because of the potential for confusion or objuscation, Re-nourish discourages the use of the term green, preferring greener instead.
- Green-e Certification
- Green-e is an independent consumer protection program monitoring the sale of renewable energy and greenhouse gas reductions in the retail market. Green-e offers certification and verification of renewable energy and greenhouse gas mitigation products and projects.
- 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 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 green, rather than actually implementing environmentally sound practices. According to a popular report issued by the marketing firm Terrachoice, there are seven common "sins" of greenwashing:
- The hidden tradeoff: Focusing on one environmental benefit while ignoring other essential issues.
- No proof: Lack of third-party auditing to back up any claims.
- Vagueness: Using words and claims with broad or multiple meanings, resulting in an essentially meaningless claim.
- Worshipping false labels:Giving the impression of third-party certification when no such certification exixts.
- Irrelevance: Making a green claim that is already inherent to the product or service being marketed, as though there's something special about this one.
- Lesser of two evils: Making claims within a product category that is inherently environmentally damaging (i.e. no matter what green claims are made, the product is by definition bad for the environment).
- Fibbing: Outright lying.
- Industrial hemp is a member of the genus Cannabis, a botanical genus containing over 500 varieties of species. A highly versatile plant, industrial hemp is grown for use in textiles, paper, neutraceuticals, and other common products. Because of its strong fibers, paper made from hemp is longer lasting than wood pulp and can be recycled up to seven times, whereas wood pulp can only be recycled approximately four times. It grows without requiring pesticides or herbicides and is good at aerating the soil. One acre of hemp can produce as much usable fiber as 4 acres of trees or two acres of cotton. A quick growing plant, hemp can yield four times more paper pulp than trees over a 20 year period. Furthermore, the light colored pulp requires little or no bleaching. Because of these traits, hemp is widely considered an incredibly viable source of sustainable agricultural fiber.
Sadly, the industrial hemp market has been highly politicized. As a member of the Cannabis genus, industrial hemp is still illegal in the United States. The U.S. government does not distinguish between the species grown for industrial use and the species known commonly as marijuana, even though industrial hemp contains less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. As a result, hemp fiber can only be imported to the U.S., rather than produced locally.
- Hydroelectricity uses water to generate electricity. Natural water flow is stopped at a dam, where the water is then directed through large pipes to hydraulic turbines connected to generators. The turbines rotate due to the force of the water exiting the dam, creating energy, which is converted into electricity. Hydroelectricity is beneficial because water is a renewable source of energy and there are no true carbon emissions in the process. Despite being inexpensive to operate, Hydroelectricity plants are expensive to build and can present potential threats to cities downstream after floods or failures.
- Intentional Reuse
- Many times we design artifacts that are reused for other unintended reasons. For instance, a glass soda bottle can become a flower vase or a beautiful brochure morphs into a bookmark. Instead of hoping for serendipity, designers should create for a purposeful reuse of their work. This prolongs the life of an object, saving energy and material which reduces a project's carbon footprint.
- International Organization for Standardization. The world's largest developer and publisher of international standardization systems. ISO implements worldwide, proprietary, industrial and commercial standards.
ISO 14000 addresses "environmental management". This refers to what the organization does to minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities, and to continual improving its environmental performance.
ISO 9000 addresses "quality management". This refers to what the organization does to fulfill quality requirements and applicable regulatory requirements while aiming to enhance customer satisfaction. The organization must also continue to improve its performance in pursuit of these objectives.
- Isopropyl Alcohol
- Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) is a common cleaner and solvent made of water and propene in the printing industry. IPA is highly flammable and can poison those who come in contact via ingestion, inhalation, or absorption. IPA is dangerous to those with asthma, and can lead to headaches, vomiting, nausea and skin defatting (removal of fatty acids from the skin). Print workers who work in facilities that use IPA are at high risk for exposure.
- The kenaf plant is considered one of the most promising alternatives to wood for paper. Indigenous to West Africa, kenaf is a member of the hibiscus family and grows well in many parts of the U.S. Kenaf has a unique combination of long bast and short core fibers which makes it ideal for paper products.
Compared to a Southern Pine - a species commonly grown on tree plantations - which takes 14 to 17 years before it can be harvested, kenaf reaches 12-18 feet in 150 days and yields 3 to 5 times as much fiber (WorldJute). In addition, kenaf is resistant to most plant diseases and insects, requiring much lower levels of insect protection than for most commercial crops. Because kenaf contains less lignin, pulping requires less chemicals and less energy than wood pulping processes. Therefore, producing paper from kenaf causes less pollution.
- Paper stock produced by the kraft pulping process, which cooks down the tree to remove lignins, retaining the fibers for papermaking.
- Laminated paper is waterproof, washable and tear-proof. There are two types of lamination processes: film and liquid. The liquid laminate finish is applied much like a varnish, and dried in the same way. With the film technique, paper is sealed between two thin layers of plastic film, the edges sealed with adhesive, and dried with heat. VOCs are emitted during lamination processes. Furthermore, since plastic and adhesives are used in this technique, it renders the paper un-recyclable.
It is best to avoid petroleum-based inks and coatings as they emit higher VOCs. Also avoid finishes like foil stamping and laminates, as they are hard to de-ink and consequently make it difficult to recycle the paper.
- The liquid 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.
- An internationally recognized certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council that measures how well a building or community performs in terms of energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. LEED certification can apply to commercial as well as residential buildings and results in four levels of certification: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.
- A relief printing process involving the direct impression of inked movable type into paper. Letterpress is a technique that has been in use since the fifteenth century and remained in wide use until the second half of the 20th century. The process begins with locking a bed of reversed, movable type, inking the bed, and pressing the bed into a sheet of paper to make a direct, right-reading impression. Letterpress is an extremely important innovation in history due to the fact that it allowed printed materials to be distributed, and therefore able to reach a wider range of people.
- Life Cycle Analysis
- 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.
- Most commonly used in packaging design where packaging material/size is reduced to a weight that uses less material, minimizes waste, reduces shipping charges and consequently lowers carbon emissions from transporting the products.
- The "glue" that binds to cellulose fibers and hardens and strengthens the cell walls of plants and trees. Approximately one-third of the tree is lignin. Lignin is responsible for the yellowing of paper.
- A printing process that benefits from the fact that oil and water do not mix. In the original process, a smooth surface is drawn on with greasy ink, wet with water, etched into, and finally brushed with oily ink, retaining the ink only in the design. The inked surface is then printed on the paper through direct contact, a special press, or onto a rubber cylinder for transfer to paper. The modern process is similar yet done in high-speed, and accounts for more almost half of all commercial printing.
- Mill Broke
- Waste material from the paper-making process.
- 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.
- Natural Design Systems
- Nature and Culture are fundamentally interdependent and interconnected by complex social, cultural, economic, ecological and psychological interactions, therefore humanity and nature will have to cooperate as symbiotic, co-evolving living systems.
- Offset Lithography
- See lithography.
- Also known as carbon offsetting. 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 (see carbon neutrality).
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 rapidly.
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. Research is scant in this area, but at least one study implies that offsets may not result in significant increased energy consumption (SSIR).
- Generally speaking, organic refers to the absence of pesticides, hormones, synthetic fertilizers, and genetically-modified organisms in the cultivation of plants and animals. Organic certification criteria varies widly throughout the world, and is the subject of much controversy among different contistuencies.
- Plate-making Process
- See chemical plates.
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
- Represented by the #3 on plastic recycling codes, and more commonly referred to as vinyl, PVC is typically used in residential plumbing and clamshell packaging. PVC, when manufactured or incinerated in garbage, releases dioxins into the atmosphere that are linked to cancer and do damage to human immune and reproductive systems. PVC should be avoided in all design projects. Learn more here.
- Postconsumer waste (PCW)
- Paper that has reached its intended end-user before being discarded and collected again for recycling. For example, paper recovered from a curb-side recycling program is considered to be postconsumer, while paper scraps from a printshop are not.
- Pre-Consumer Waste
- Printer's waste that includes trims and unused copies which may have been over-ordered or over-printed.
- Print on Demand (POD)
- A digital printing technology in which documents are not printed until an order has been received. POD is most beneficial to self-publishing authors and small presses. A potential downside to POD is that, in many cases, vegetable-based inks and high post-consumer content papers are not available currently.
- Processed Chlorine Free (PCF)
- A term used to describe paper that is made from recycled post-consumer waste (PCW) and bleached without chlorine, or left unbleached. It is, at this point, the most environmentally choice for your print design project.
- Quadruple Bottom Line
- The term Quadruple Bottom Line evolved from Triple Bottom Line to add principles as a fourth component to people, planet, and profit, making the organizational goals more respectful of cultures and beliefs, designing with, not just for, people.
- Scrap paper collected for remanufacturing into recycled paper. This does not include scrap created in the initial papermaking process but it does include scrap created in a mill after the paper comes off the paper machine.
- The process of creating new products from reclaiming used products and materials.
- Recycled Paper
- Legally, to be labeled "recycled," paper must include materials recovered after the initial paper manufacturing process. This could mean paper made from pre-consumer scraps, which have never actually been used. Post-consumer waste (see: >PCW) is paper that has already been used and returned through a recycling program, thereby diverting it from a landfill or incinerator. Each ton of 100% post-consumer recycled fiber that displaces a ton of virgin fiber saves between 12 and 24 trees. Recycled paper reduces energy consumption up to 70% over processing virgin pulp, and uses 55% less water to process (Conservatree), subsequently reduces the cumulative impacts of energy production.
- Renewable Energy
- Energy created from replenishing resources. Renewable energy sources include the solar power, wind, moving water, and co-generation, which captures heat from manufacturing to produce power. See also: wind power, hydroelectricity, solar power
- 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.
- Screen Printing
- A printing technique that consists of forcing ink through a screen-fabric stencil mounted on a sturdy frame with a squeegee tool, transferring ink onto a substrate of choice. Screen-printing can be done either manually or automatically. This is a very versatile technique, proving effective in printing on oddly shaped objects and in wrap-around situations.
- Sustainable Foresty Initiative - (SFI)
- Re-nourish does not recognize SFI certification as a sustainable option. SFI is a program that primarily addresses forest management. SFI was developed by the paper and lumber industry to monitor the paper and lumber industry, which creates transparency issues with their findings. The SFI standards also do not account specifically for "old growth" forests; all forests are managed similarly according to the SFI guidelines and standards. The SFI allows the use of genetic engineering in forestry management. The program allows clear cutting, provided the average size does not exceed 120 acres. It requires that companies use forest chemicals such as herbicides "prudently." Please visit Greenpeace for more issues with SFI.
- Smartwood Certification
- Smartwood is a certification standard that is part of the Rainforest Alliance. It is internationally revered for its high environmental standards whose "services has a different focus—ranging from Forest Stewardship Council certification, to verification of legality, to the management of high conservation value forests."
- The waste material left over after pulping and de-inking 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.
- Solar Power
- The transformation of sunlight into electricity through the use of either directly through Photovoltaics (PV) or indirectly through Concentrates Solar Power (CSP). Solar Power is classified as a green energy source due the lack of harmful emissions and hazardous waste produced, as well as the use of the sun as a renewable resource.
- Soya-Based Inks
- These inks are also agricultural-based and contain less VOCs than petroleum-based inks (mineral-based), however it is hard to determine if the soybeans used were GMO in origin. Moreover, there is no universal standard for the content of soy-based inks. A brand could have 1% soy oil and still be labeled as soy-based ink.
- Sustainability relates to the relationships between economic, social, institutional and environmental aspects of human existence. It organizes decisions to allow for current human needs to be met while preserving biodiversities and ecosystems to maintain the same quality of life for future generations.
- Synthetic Paper
- Synthetic paper is made from plastic resins and inorganic fillers that can be easily recycled in most places by conventional methods. It can be used, recycled, and used again without compromising quality, therefore avoiding the landfill entirely. It is designed to be waterproof and rugged, resisting tears and dirt. The downside of synthetic paper is that it is essentially made from petroleum-based plastic. This does not reduce or eliminate the environmental damage caused by our dependency on oil. However, because synthetic paper is entirely inorganic, it eliminates the use of trees in manufacturing. Unfortunately, there is no evidence of any synthetic paper made from recycled plastic.
- Total Chlorine Free (TCF)
- TCF papers are not bleached with chlorine, however, they are typically made from only virgin wood fiber (not recycled or PCW). Since the paper is not recycled, TCF papers should probably not be the first choice for your design project. However, some agri-fiber or alternative fiber papers tend to have lighter fibers making bleaching unnecessary. See also: bleaching
- Triple Bottom Line
- The pursuit of economic growth that is in balance with ecological, social and economic needs.
- Tree Farm
- See monoculture plantation
- 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.
- UV Coating
- UV coating is applied like ink to paper and dried by ultraviolet light. It can be used as an overall protective coating or "spot" applied to an area of the printed piece. The process of UV coating emits no toxic byproducts. However, the clean-up process from UV coatings requires dangerous chemicals and could be hazardous to workers' health. In addition, the UV coating process requires high-energy use due to UV drying lamps and air conditioning requirements.
The ability to recycle paper with heavy UV coverage may be limited. Too much of this coating in a batch may contaminate the pulp, which prevents the paper from being used to make recycled paper products.
- UV Inks
- UV Inks are a mixed bag. They typically use less solvents and contain small amounts of VOCs, however they are not from renewable sources, but UV inks have a quick drying time, reducing the energy required under drying lamps.
- This coating comes in gloss, dull and satin and is extremely strong. Varnishes recycle more easily than the UV coated stock. However, the process emits harmful VOCs during the coating process.
- Vegetable-based Inks
- Currently, the best option on the market is vegetable-based inks because they contain less VOCs and IPA solvents than traditional petroleum-based inks. Vegetable-based inks are also easier to clean up and to de-ink, which makes the printed product simpler to recycle. Printing presses that use vegetable-based inks can be cleaned with a water-based cleaner, replacing the high-VOC solvent cleaners used with petroleum-based ink. Vegetable inks could contain corn, linseed, cottonseed, or flaxseed oil. However, it is important to mention that vegetable-based inks could also contain petroleum. And obviously, unless otherwise specifically mentioned, these inks are manufactured and shipped using fossil fuels. Ideally, their method of manufacture and shipping would be local and renewable.
- Virgin Fiber
- Four billion new trees are cut down every year for paper production. Virgin paper (pre-consumer) 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. Although wood is a renewable resource, clearcutting involves cutting down native forests, destroying an area's ecological integrity. This is done in order to create "tree farms" which are vast stretches of land planted with one type of tree (monoculture). To ensure that only one species of tree grows, the trees are sprayed with harsh chemicals, contaminating local waterways and communities with devastating effects on wildlife and human health.
Responsible paper manufacturers establish legal or sustainable sources of wood from managed forests for long-term yield, such as FSC certified forests. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world's forests. FSC sets high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way. Currently, FSC is the only widely accepted international certification program among independent environmental advocacy groups.
- 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; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system; and are suspected to cause cancer in humans. VOCs such as methane, contain greenhouse gases which create ozone and contribute to increased global warming.
- Waterless Printing
- Waterless printing technology replaces water and alcohol during the printing process with silicone coated printing plates that repel the ink. Water is saved, many toxic chemicals are eliminated from the process, the amount of polluting emissions is reduced, and there is less paper waste due to its reported high-quality color reproduction ability. Despite not using water in the printing process, water is still needed for clean-up.
- Wind Power
- The conversion of wind energy into electricity using wind turbines. Wind energy is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, clean, and reduces toxic atmospheric and greenhouse gas emissions when used to replace fossil-fuel-derived electricity. Wind power consumes no fuel for continuing operation, and has no emissions directly related to electricity production. There is no certification or official logo for products manufactured with wind power.
- 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.