Earth Greetings was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 2003, when I decided to try out a creative business idea publishing my nature-inspired designs on to greeting cards. As I have always been a bit of a greenie, naturally I wanted to use environmentally friendly paper and non-toxic printing for my cards.Drawing on some past experience working in the admin side of the publishing industry, I thought it just a matter of making a couple of phone calls to find some 100% recycled or alternative fibre paper and a printer who could answer all of my questions.
At the time of the idea, I had no concept of the challenge that lay before me in trying to produce an "Earth friendly" product on paper - a product which I was about to discover can cause widespread environmental destruction on a grand scale!
The more I researched, the more shocked I was at how much environmental destruction can be caused by the paper making process. Dense, diverse forest which took years to establish is destroyed, wildlife loses its home or is confined to smaller areas, to the carbon-emmitting transportation of the wood, the pulping process using vast amounts of water, and pollution created in paper bleaching and printers ink ending up in our air, water and food.
I was now even more determined than before not to use any paper that had been created in this way for my greeting cards. However I soon discovered that 100% recycled or alternative fibre for offset print was not even available in Australia. In 2003, the highest recycled content card stock available in Australia (to the best of my knowledge and research) was only 50% recycled, 50% plantation forest fibre. The printer (and the paper supplier) were full of reassurance, telling me that this is "the most environmentally friendly stock available", after all, it was produced at a mill with numerous environmental accreditations.
It also proved difficult to find printers here in Australia that took my questions about the printing process seriously and able to provide much if any information about what they might be doing to lower their environmental impact. Eventually, after much research and many phone calls, I came accross a couple of printers who use vegetable inks exclusively (which do not contain mineral oil - which releases volatile organic compounds and hazardous heavy metals into the atmosphere) and at the very least lent an ear to my environmental concerns.
Every day, the major Australian greeting card manufacturers produce around 100,000 greeting cards. Unfortunately price still remains a barrier to commercial use of recycled stocks, which are often more than twice the price of a virgin fibre or mixed source stock. Presumably this is why most commercial greeting cards are still not printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper.
Thankfully, nowadays awareness of climate change and our ability to impact the earth as consumers has become mainstream. Consumer concern about the environment is driving a change for the greener in many industries.
There are now imported 100% post-consumer waste papers available in Australia, however they are still price-prohibitive, inhibiting their widespread use. There have been some small changes to production practices here to keep within legal Environmental Protection Authority limits, however the Australian paper industry has a long way to go to catch up with European practices.
Unfortunately there is still a distinct lack of 'alternative' fibre papers such as hemp or kenaf available in Australia that are suitable for offset print. There are also questions to be raised over forest-clearing land to grow the alternative crops in the first place.
I can only conclude that 100% post-consumer recycled paper currently remains the best environmental choice. There have been many studies done which have revealed recycling paper uses much less energy and waste than making paper from virgin forest fibre. (Please see 'Paper, Printing & The Environment' for more info.)
The forests that absorb carbon dioxide which is a major cause of global warming, are still dissappearing. Our water and atmosphere is still being polluted with poisons. Paper pulp mills are using water at an alarming rate. Our wildlife is losing its home. If we as consumers refuse to buy products that cause this level of destruction then manufacturers will be forced to use alternative methods.
Heide Hackworth - Creative Director
The good news is, we now have a growing number of greener choices! As well as making informed purchasing descisions, perhaps you would like to consider joining an environmental organisation committed to preserving trees and wildlife for the future. See the environmental links page for some ideas.
Despite the growing accessibility of electronic media, giving a greeting card is still valued today as a simple and thoughtful gesture to connect with another. I want to make this choice easy for people who care about reducing their environmental footprint. I also hope to inspire others to appreciate nature more and therefore endeavour to protect it.
I count myself very lucky to have such a fun creative job!
My mission is to use the most Earth friendly paper & printing alternatives available to design unique paper goods which are a celebration of nature.
Heide Hackworth - Creative Director