FSC-certified paper for eco-friendly project?

I asked my local printer about recycled and/or FSLIC-certified paper, and was told the following:

Pretty much all of the paper we use is at least 20% recycled. We have printed on paper that had a higher recycled percentage but, the higher you go the “dirtier” it gets. There are random specks and marks throughout that can make print hard to read. Also it would be more expensive and we would probably have to order large quantities.

Another printer answered as follows:

Yes we do offer both FSC/SFI and recycled papers. Almost all of our paper is one or the other. It is more difficult these days to find a virgin sheet that it is the others. Our House sheet we use for most traditional publications is FSC MIX CREDIT.

I haven’t yet looked up the MIX CREDIT, but wondered if anyone has a recommendation for a mid-weight paper (maybe #60-80lb) that is eco-friendly but prints well enough that body copy is legible?

I can’t be much help. There was a time when I had shelves full of paper swatch books and got to spec some fun and interesting papers. These days, all I ever spec is weight and coating of a printer’s house sheet.

You have quite a few options. Your local printer will order whatever paper you’d like, but depending on the size of the run, you may end up paying for whatever is unused from the case.

As a printer myself, I can vouch for what the printers you visited have told you.

The paper you choose, will have speckles and even some larger “clumps” here and there. It won’t be a bright white, however most images and texts still print well on such papers.

Include a small statement about the paper used in the artwork. Even a few words about sustainability in print. It makes the client (or yourself) appear eco conscious and justifies the paper’s appearance

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FSC certified paper isn’t recycled paper, though recycled paper can sometimes be FSC certified, with the problem there being chain-of-custody certification issues. That may be where “mixed credit” comes from but I’m too lazy to look it up.

The whole point of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is that the paper is made from responsibly sourced wood products. It can be perfectly bright white and still be FSC. It only means that the trees have been harvested in a specifically defined eco-managed process that respects the environment, and replaced with more trees. If the paper you are using is FSC bright white, you might want to put a statement somewhere that says it’s FSC certified, cuz it doesn’t look any different from normal paper. You need to tell people the paper is from managed sources.

If you are using Recycled papers with its inherent speckly crap, people already know what that is and don’t need an explanation.


You’ve gotten good advice from both your printers, Biggs and PrintDriver. I like Biggs’s suggestion about a small line, maybe near to the FSC logo, mentioning something about the paper.

Eco-friendly paper isn’t quite as straight-forward as people sometimes assume. Most paper comes from what are essentially tree farms, not virgin forests. Paper is basically a sustainable and renewable agricultural product.

Most paper that commercial printers use already contains recycled content for the simple reason that it’s economical for paper companies to make it. Because there are limits to how many times paper can be recycled and because recycled pulp just isn’t as good and new pulp, there are practical limits to the percentage of recycled content various papers can contain. The paper companies generally push up against those limits.

In addition, the whole process of recycling paper isn’t necessarily as environmentally friendly as people assume.

In other words, the majority of paper used by printers already comes from paper companies with a vested business interest in good, sustainable forestry and recycling.

As PrintDriver mentioned, FSC certification is an indication that the paper originates from a company that uses responsible forestry practices, as opposed to, for example, wood clear-cut from the Amazon rain forest.

Most printers can show you samples of what they have or can get. If you want something that’s FSC-certified and contains as much recycled content as possible, just ask if they have suggestions and samples for you to look at. (I always like to use local printers for these very kinds of reasons.)

There are some specialty papers that use pulp not processed with chlorine bleach or use other environmentally friendly processes in their manufacture or transport, but off-hand, I’m not all that familiar with them. I suspect most are more about niche marketing than they are about genuine environmental friendliness. For example, Neenah’s “Environment” paper line.

A few years ago, it was something of a marketing fad to slap recycle and FSC logos on printed materials. Today it’s become sort of meaningless given that most paper is FSC-certified and contains recycled content.


I have used Cocoon from Arjowiggins quite a lot. Not sure if it is available in the US. I’m in the uk. Good recycled stock. No ‘bits’ in it. Never had legibility issues, even with small, light type.

It’s something I come across a lot and I’ve read a lot about it and spoke with print suppliers/paper suppliers etc. about it in the past.

For FSC paper everyone is right - you can get different mixes, but only the FSC 100% Recyclable label can be applied when appropriate. *

I’ve heard people say that recycled paper is better for the environment as it doesn’t use chemicals used during the original treatment of paper and things like that.

But then I read another article that said recycled paper goes through treatment that’s harmful to the environment

I spoke with several suppliers, and came to the conclusion - they’ll sell you what they’re selling - they’ll always tell you the most important features they have and tell you their features are the best.

In conclusion, I surmised for myself that paper needs to be manufactured anyway.
And you can get a recycled paper that goes through a treatment anyway.

I figured it’s best to get an FSC certified that the paper came from tree farms, as for every tree they cut down they plant 3 more, as policy.

That surely is a good thing. With recycled paper, I don’t know if they plant trees or donate to tree farms.

Plus, recycled paper is more expensive than normal paper in most cases.

In most cases I try to talk a customer into using FSC certified paper.

And you can only use their logo after getting it supplied from the paper manufacturer.

In that way I feel it’s a bit more controlled than recycled paper.

You can stick a recycled logo on anything - at your peril. But you actually have to source the FSC logo and they don’t hand it out easily.

It reminds me of an old sales rep that promised a bunch of vegans (nothing against them they are vegans so it’s accurate) that their book would be printed using soya inks. He never even looked into it. It just said printed using soya inks on the inside - did anybody every check? Nope.

Even soya inks can be problematic. They are often oil based and something has to be used to clean that out of the machine.

We do a lot of FSC certification checking if we are working on a LEED qualified project and are certainly conscious of sourcing and waste stream. All kinds of recycling in place. FSC is very strict, but you really gotta watch out for the generic “recycled” “eco-friendly” “bio-whatever” labeling. If there is nothing behind it, suspect it.

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Very interesting discussion. Thank you.

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