RECYCLED PAPER or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)?

September 6th, 2011 | Comments Off on RECYCLED PAPER or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)?

A discussion on LinkedIn among designers concerned with the difficulty of using the FSC mark on their projects prompted this post. Green Graphic Design – FSC logo usage

Some designers feel it’s too much trouble to deal with the very stringent FSC guidelines for the use of their mark, which costs printing companies quite a bit to license.

My issue with FSC is their certification of logging operations that are not sustainable and that do not meet FSC’s own Principles and Criteria. has details.

But there’s more to the story…

What is a designer’s responsibility to protect the resources we use?

‘…self-righteous and cheesy’ is an interesting reaction to a mark designed to clarify environmental responsibility, which most people respect. But it’s good that FSC is drawing some lines, even if it’s just in the use of their mark.

The problem I have with FSC is certification of plantations that clearcut native forests, kill wildlife and pollute groundwater. These practices are not sustainable and these plantations do not meet FSC’s Principles and Criteria. It seems obvious they should not be certified. However…

That said, it’s a tough situation because FSC is trying to apply principles developed in fairly well-regulated, mostly northern countries to control the worst abusers of sustainable forestry practices – typically in countries with weak or nonexistent environmental regulations. How can FSC hope to control repressive governments in Burma, or overpopulated and underfed nations in Africa, or war-torn regions of South America?

In these places, FSC is certainly better than nothing.

People in developed nations use far more paper and other forest products per capita than do people in third-world countries, and the logging companies are usually owned by northern interests.

Those of us who profit from the use of paper (and other forest products) are directly responsible for the demand, and we can and should protect the resource and promote sustainable forestry practices. If the moral imperative to protect the environment doesn’t move you, there’s still your own best interest to consider.

Every paper company offers at least 30% recycled paper, though it’s often made from ‘pre-consumer’ paper – trimmings from the printshop floor. The best is 100% post-consumer recycled paper, which is made from the paper we recycle in our offices and homes.

Every printer uses some form of vegetable ink (soy, linseed…) because all inks have varying amounts of oils from renewable and nonrenewable sources. Low-VOC inks are made with less petroleum-based oil, are less toxic in the air and water, and easier to clean off the press and get out of paper when it’s recycled. Of interest to designers especially, vegetable inks are more transparent, which translates to brighter colors but can be tricky on colored paper.

Because of the FSC’s problems enforcing their Principles even while they continue to tout their green credibility, I don’t recommend FSC paper to clients. I do always suggest recycled or even tree-free paper, and recommend printers like Greg Barber’s company ( or and Some wholesale printers now offer recycled paper and vegetable ink, such as

Then I use the recycled logo with the circling arrows and some variation of “PRINTED on RECYCLED PAPER with VEGETABLE INK – PLEASE RECYCLE” at whatever size and location fits the project best.


Gaia Graphics and Associates

… creative by nature …

100% solar-powered website

(not to be ‘self-righteous and cheesy’)


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