print and mail paper sustainability

PCI Group often gets questions from customers and prospects regarding sustainability efforts. There are many misconceptions regarding print and mail paper sustainability practices, and we think it’s an important topic to discuss.

In collaboration with our paper partners, we’ve put together this fact check on environmental myths regarding the paper industry. You’ll also learn about the certifications our paper has and what they mean.

Fact: Forests Are a Renewable Resource

Developing sustainable forest management is critical to the paper industry. These practices include integrating all aspects of the forest ecosystem, inclusive of plants and trees. Because demand remains high for sustainably sourced paper, those controlling the lands have a great incentive to keep them healthy. One clear example of this is that the U.S. increased its forest area by 18 million acres from 1990 to 2020.

Each year these forests grow two times more tree volume than what’s harvested. This results in a net average increase of 25 billion cubic feet in growing stock. A cycle of harvesting and regeneration supports carbon sequestration, which reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Fact: Paper Certifications Demonstrate Sustainability Standards

There are several certifications that paper can earn. The most notable are:

Receiving and maintaining these certifications requires a commitment from paper companies to sustainability. All the paper we use comes from organizations that meet or exceed one or more of these

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paper recyclingFact: The Pulp and Paper Industry Contributes Less Than 1% of Total U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Another misconception about paper production is that it greatly contributes to emissions. In actuality, the paper industry uses more renewable and carbon-neutral energy than fossil fuels. The field has been steadily reducing emissions since 2005. In 2020, it was responsible for only 0.6% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Fact: The U.S. Recycles More Paper Than Any Other Product

Many people may erroneously believe paper is wasteful, but businesses and individuals are regular recyclers. In 2021, 68% of paper and paper-based packaging was recycled, topping the list over plastic, glass, and metal.

Additionally, recycling eliminates the release of greenhouse gasses when paper decomposes in landfills. The companies we source paper from and our operations recycle almost all waste.

Fact: Continuous Input of New Wood Fiber Keeps Paper Production Sustainable

While recycled materials make up a large part of new paper production, adding new wood fiber is still important. Recycling causes fibers to get shorter and weaker, so it needs some reinforcement with this new fiber. When it comes from sustainably managed forests, it’s part of the ecosystem of healthy foresting.

Fact: Making All Communication Digital Doesn’t Eliminate Sustainability Issues

Many companies and consumers want to be completely digital in terms of statements, invoices, and communications. One of the reasons is that most think it shrinks your carbon footprint. However, the digital world needs a lot of energy, which creates greenhouse gas emissions.

Sending an email to a customer with their communication isn’t without consequences. The number of emails we receive every day continues to grow, as do the many devices we use to receive them. In fact, the U.S. generates 7 million metric tons of electronic waste per capita.

Thus, it’s unfair to characterize going paperless as being “green.” It depends on the practices of the company and their standards.

Fact: We Minimize Paper Waste and Maximize Its Usage with a White Paper Factory

A White Paper Factory is a manufacturing method that involves feeding reams of white paper into printers. Documents and envelopes print simultaneously by marrying fully digitally composed files with in-line print production. Dynamic printing on each letter also means there is no need for inserts or pre-printed stock. It’s more efficient, accurate, and sustainable.

Fact: We Care About and Prioritize Sustainability

Through responsible sourcing and effective manufacturing processes, we demonstrate our commitment to sustainability every day. We follow best practices on recycling and have energy-efficient practices in place in our facilities. We’ve also offset the equivalent of 1.37 billion letter pages of paper by reforesting 164,000 trees.

Learn more about our sustainability commitment.


1. UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2020
2. USDA Forest Service, 2020
3. U.S. Forest Service, 2022
4. UN FAO, 2020
5. U.S. Forest Service, 2022
6. UN FAO, 2022
7. American Forest and Paper Association, 2022
8. National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), 2007
9. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2022
10. U.S. EPA, 2022
11. U.S. EPA, 2022
12. NCASI, 2018
13. AF&PA, 2022
14. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2020
15. Toluna and Two Sides North America, 2019
16. World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), 2015
17. AF&PA, 2021
18. AF&PA, 2022
19. U.S. EPA Archive
20. WBCSD, 2015
21. WBCSD, 2015
22. AF&PA, 2022
23. The Shift Project, Lean ICT. Towards Digital Sobriety, 2019
24. Cisco, 2020
25. Berners-Lee, et al, 2021
26. The Shift Project, 2019
27. Andrae and Edler, 2015
28. U.S. Department of Energy, 2022
29. International Energy Agency, 2022
30. Pew Research Center, 2021
31. Global E-waste Monitor, 2017
32. Global E-Waste Monitor, 2020
33. Two Sides, 2022
34. U.S. Federal Trade Commission, 2022
35. Competition Bureau of Canada, 2022
36. UN Environment Programme, 2022
37. International Organization for Standardization, 2022
38. World Federation of Advertisers, 2022
39. Two Sides North America, 2022

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