"Everything which would ordinarily go into the waste paper basket after use"

The government brochure

Government brochure

I couldn’t let this piece of Federally-funded ephemera pass by unnoticed. It is, as anybody who has been paying attention knows, the Government’s 20-page brochure outlining its plans to introduce a price on carbon pollution and what it intends to do with the money. It’s full of information. And ● bullet points. And break-out boxes for ease of reading. As you might expect, the colour green features regularly and prominently.

It’s amazingly well-printed on uncoated stock by PMP Print in Melbourne. The pics have neat little drop shadows. The clouds in the sky are light and airy. The bare branches of the tree are stark and woody. They really should get a prize for doing that. It’s glued rather than stitched, which is unusual.

Anyway, all that is by-the-by because the thing that really caught my eye is the little logo on the back page announcing that it was printed on ENVI, a special paper produced by Australian Paper that has been certified carbon neutral under the Australian National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS). No surprises, I guess, that, in this instance, the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency decided to use a paper that has been certified carbon neutral by its own standard. What choice did they have? The word is that the government paid about 10% more for the paper.

Mind you, ENVI is not without its critics and Australian Paper has been in the news recently for its continued use of native forestry timber which threatens its Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation. You can read their explanation here.

The road to sustainability is paved with good intentions, half-truths and contradictions. In this case, the DoCC obviously thought it was doing the right thing by choosing a carbon neutral paper for their brochure, but what it also does is draw attention to the fact that the paper and its manufacturer have been accused of ‘greenwashing’ and destroying native forest – which is perhaps not the best way to kick start a new scheme designed to combat carbon pollution.

So, on the one hand, the government gets a tick for using a paper that offsets the carbon produced during its manufacture and from a company which has accreditation for responsible forestry management from a world authority on the subject (although it seems to be having second thoughts). On the other hand (you can tell I’m being even-handed here), all such logos, ticks and approvals are just window dressing used to obfuscate and confuse consumers about the realities of paper manufacturing as a wasteful, dirty, destructive industry.

I’m on the side of paper here, even though it’s not perfect, because:

  • I like it
  • I’ve always used it (although I can change)
  • I believe that paper production can be sustainable using renewable, reusable resources with a manageable environmental impact (OK, so this may be based more on hope than history, but we can all change)
  • I don’t think other media are much better despite the widespread belief that online communication helps to ‘save’ the environment. Computers? Sustainable? Pfft.
  • Paper is easy to use, low-tech, cheap, accessible, democratic, ubiquitous and it works – it is very good at communicating messages (a means to an end).

Carbon offsets are not perfect, FSC accreditation is not perfect by any means, but they are attempts to address serious problems in an imperfect world. In the long run, it’s probably better to print a brochure such as this using ENVI than not to print it at all. It could be better but it’s better than nothing.

shredded paper

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