How to make your print carbon neutral

By Gary Hunter

5 minute Read


  • Insight

There is a popular misconception around paper and deforestation and the damage it causes to the environment, however, this could not be further from the truth. At Dragonfly, we are helping to spread the positive message and help educate people that mail can be carbon neutral.

What does carbon neutral mean?

Carbon neutral means that you or your business is making efforts to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, especially as a result of carbon offsetting.

How can you make your mail carbon neutral?

Firstly, you can ensure all printed material is produced on accredited paper. This allows the protection of ancient forests and the survival of European forests, which due to these schemes have grown by 44,000 square kilometres (the size of Switzerland) between 2005 and 2015. Accredited sources ensure European trees are not cut down for paper use only and 50% of the world’s wood harvest is used as fuel. Over 30% is processed for other industrial uses, such as construction and furniture. Interestingly, only around 13% is used to make paper.

Currently, through responsibly managed forest programmes, European forests have been growing by an area equivalent to 1,500 football pitches every day. Given that on average, one acre of new forest can sequester about 2.5 tons of carbon annually, this is a lot of carbon being captured. (Two Sides)

Secondly, aim to source eco-friendly paper, which is a greener version of traditional paper, with a much smaller carbon footprint and overall environmental impact. There are two main categories of eco-friendly paper, both types of paper are important in the paper making cycle.  The accreditations below require the raw materials to be sustainably managed through forest stewardships.

  • The first is recycled paper
  • The second is PEFC & FSC certified paper

It is also important to implement as many efficiencies as possible and across all direct mail campaigns you should try to bulk buy and order the best possible paper in advance to avoid waste. Another tip is to ensure that your data is as clean as possible to eliminate any waste from creating and mailing packs unnecessarily.

Why not make everything digital?

The move to an online-only society can create risks leaving older people, the disabled, rural dwellers and those on low incomes disconnected. In terms of impact, businesses and individuals are increasingly using ‘cloud’ services. These mega datacentres store almost everything we do online; including our web searches, our social media posts and our online statements. An ordinary email that you click on, open, forward or reply to emits 4 grams of CO2.  If that email has an attachment of, for example 1 MB, the CO2 goes up to 19g and if that attachment is then forwarded or filed, the footprint for that one email could be as high as 50g!

If an email is spam and blocked by a filter, then the number is only 0.3g. Every email has a unique footprint that reflects its size and the number of times it is moved around. The Information and Communications Technology industry accounts for around 2.5-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and this is predicted to rise to 14% by 2040. "The electronic waste problem is colossal, and it’s growing.  In 2016 alone, 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste were generated globally". Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2018

Get in touch if you would like more information or advice on making your mail carbon neutral.

Gary Hunter image

About the author

Gary is our production expert who loves nothing more than sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience with the Dragonfly team and uses his technical insight to guide our clients. With over 30 years’ experience in the industry Gary still has a passion for finding solutions and answers for all of our clients.

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