Does the use of recovered fibers instead of virgin ones promote sustainability and lessen the impact on the environment? What a ridiculous question, you say? Perhaps, but a study prepared for National Geographic by ENVIRON International Corp. claims that a) there are some in the publishing and paper world dismissing these benefits, and b) they’re wrong.
American production of magazine paper is responsible for the equivalent of more than 7.2 million metric tons of CO2 annually, claims the report. That’s roughly the annual greenhouse gas emissions of more than 1.5 million cars.
Contained in the 59-page “Life Cycle Assessment of Deinked and Virgin Pulp” study are the sorts of graphs, chemistry terms and footnotes that chased most of us into the design industry in the first place. However, the conclusion is pretty clear. In 14 out of 14 environmental impact categories (including smog, ozone depletion, carcinogens and ecotoxicity), recovered fiber has a “consistently lower environmental impact” than virgin bleached pulp (mechanical, kraft, or a kraft-mechanical blend).
As a result of the study, National Geographic announced that it will be exploring the use of recycled paper in its publications. The big question, of course: Which papers should it use to highlight the glossy images and maps for which it’s known?