Don’t buy “carbon-neutral” paper, warns an environmental coalition — that is, don’t believe the hype many paper companies are using to appear green and eco-friendly to consumers.
The Environmental Paper Network says the “carbon neutral” label often used for paper doesn’t always reflect the actual environmental impacts. The organisation is recommending ways to improve the measurement of carbon footprints for paper products.
“There is real concern that this term could be used as ‘greenwashing,’ ” said Joshua Martin of the Environmental Paper Network. “Companies making unfounded claims about their environmental sustainability risk discrediting not only themselves but the innovations of true leaders creating truly greener jobs in the industry.”
While no paper can be truly carbon neutral when all impacts are factored in, low-carbon production can result in paper with 17 times lower emissions than standard paper from virgin sources, the coalition says.
“Paper production can never be ‘carbon neutral,’ ” said Ginger Cassady of ForestEthics and senior campaigner for the Do Not Mail campaign to establish a registry for Americans to opt-out of junk mail. “Resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions are inevitable in the production of paper, and we must support products which are truly ‘low carbon’, and not those which make suspiciously unrealistic claims of carbon neutrality.”
EPN’s report, “Carbon Neutral Paper: Fact or Fiction”, examines the important issue of carbon accounting for paper products but it misses a fundamental point. The report concludes that because paper can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, companies should dismiss and avoid all claims regarding carbon neutral paper. In taking such a narrowly defined view of carbon neutrality, EPN has dismissed the essential contribution that carbon credits (or offsets) make in helping companies reduce their carbon footprint and the footprint of their products. Using carbon credits to reduce a company’s footprint, especially from sources that cannot be directly reduced to zero like the use of paper, is a well recognized practice among leading NGOs and governments. In fact, there are many innovative and well-respected paper firms that purchase carbon credits to reduce their paper’s carbon footprint to zero. This kind of leadership should be rewarded, not discouraged by broad sweeping generalizations about the validity of carbon neutral claims.
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