Environmentally Preferable Paper Defined
EPAT defines environmentally preferable paper in terms of seven interconnected desired outcomes that represent opportunities for improvement:
Efficient use and conservation of raw materials
Minimization of waste
Conservation of natural systems
Community and human well-being
Credible reporting and verification
Specifying and purchasing environmentally preferable paper requires the consideration of many variables. EPAT makes that possible by providing the most comprehensive information and a user-friendly interface for determining paper products that best meets the environmental objectives of your organization.
Efficient Use and Conservation of Raw Materials
Efficient use means using fewer resources per unit of output in production.Conservation refers to carefully or sparingly using materials. Raw materials, in the case of paper, include fiber, clay, chemicals and other constituents that factor into all aspects of paper production, including the production of energy. Some of these raw materials may be renewable, such as wood fiber. Others can only be used by depleting relatively finite resources over time.
A desired outcome of environmentally preferable paper is that the renewable raw materials used to produce paper are employed as efficiently as knowledge and technology allows. Over time, the goal is to reduce depletion of nonrenewable raw materials and use sustainable alternatives.
Minimization of Waste
Paper products by their nature have limited life spans, at the end of which they often become waste without any value. Waste creation can be delayed through product reuse, or avoided entirely through recycling or composting at the end of the product’s life. Thoughtful product design is critical to ensuring that paper products do not become waste.
A desired outcome of environmentally preferable paper is that paper products are designed for appropriate longevity and reuse, and are created so that their components can be retained within closed-loop or recycling/recovery systems.
Conservation of Natural Systems
Natural systems are the dynamic processes of nature that provide and sustain the common resources that living beings require. Natural systems of particular relevance to paper production are the forested ecosystems of the world that produce fiber and other products that improve people’s lives. They also simultaneously provide other benefits and services such as clean air and water, biodiversity and climate regulation. Conservation requires careful management of the use of natural systems such as forests to ensure that they continue to function and produce a full range of benefits over time.
A desired outcome of environmentally preferable paper is that the forests and other natural systems that provide raw material for paper are conserved in a manner that protects unique natural values, restores degraded ecosystems to a functioning state, and ensures the sustainable flow of products and services.
The production of paper creates concentrations of substances that can negatively affect air, water, earth and climate. These substances include air emissions and pollutants such as mercury, greenhouse gas emissions, water effluent such as adsorbable organic halides and total suspended solids, and solid waste such as boiler ash and effluent sludge. Advances in knowledge have resulted in cleaner paper production in many new and refurbished facilities. As new ideas and technologies continue to emerge, opportunities for cleaner production will continue to improve over time.
A desired outcome for environmentally preferable paper is that the negative impacts of paper production on water, air, earth and climate are minimized and eventually eliminated.
Community and Human Well-being
At a very fundamental level, community and human well-being refers to the ability of people to meet their basic human needs both individually and through the communities to which they belong. These basic needs, and community and human well-being in general, can and have been defined through a wide range of indicators. More broadly, sustainable development meets the needs of people today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
A desired outcome for environmentally preferable paper is that the complex chain of paper production—from forest management to product creation—has positive benefits to the well-being of individuals, communities and cultures.
Credible Reporting and Verification
Specifying and purchasing environmentally preferable paper requires credible information by which purchasers can make decisions. This requires transparent reporting and credible, independent verification of information to assure buyers that eligible suppliers of paper meet specific performance characteristics of environmentally preferable paper.
A desired outcome for environmentally preferable paper is that standardized, independently verified information on the key attributes of environmentally preferable paper is available to purchasers.
The desired outcomes of environmentally preferable paper cannot be achieved unless there is sufficient value throughout the supply chain to foster continual innovation and change. Ongoing improvement must be economically viable to all companies involved, and options for increasing the supply of environmentally preferable paper must be seen as profitable. The desired outcome approach to environmentally preferable paper provides opportunities for rewarding technical progress through innovation and adaptation.
A desired outcome for environmentally preferable paper is that continuous improvement in the environmental performance of paper is supported by concurrent economic incentives.