I love Australian nature. In my travels throughout this beautiful country I've been lucky to visit some incredible natural wonderlands, such as the Tarkine forest in Tasmania, Kakadu National Park in NT, the tropical rainforests in QLD and the unique coastal scrub of the Coorong in SA. Standing amongst the beauty and diversity of these wild places with an ancient history has inspired me to tread as lightly on the Earth as possible.
Humans have taken so much from the planet. We urgently need to change the ways in which we live and work to restore the balance so that native flora and fauna can once again flourish.
In 2003, I decided to take a leap of faith and quit my dreary office job to start a business which would tick all the right 'eco' boxes. I would produce greeting cards and stationery using 100% recycled paper and non-toxic printing, run the office on 100% Greenpower and donate to environmental not-for-profits. Drawing on some past experience working in the administrative 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 little concept of how challenging producing an "Earth friendly" product on paper would be.
The more I researched, the more horrified 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. The printer (and the paper supplier) were full of reassurance, telling me that this is "the most environmentally friendly stock available" and that it was produced at a mill with numerous environmental accreditations.
It also proved difficult to find printers and paper companies that took my questions seriously and were able to provide information about their environmental impact.
Eventually, after lots of research and phone calls (Google wasn't so informative in those days!) 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, manufacturers are now becoming more aware of a growing concern about the environment, which is driving a change for the greener in many industries.
There are now a number of 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.
That's because there are studies available 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.
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.
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.
Giving back to the planet is as important to us as treading lightly. Earth Greetings donate over 10% of profit to environmental organisations who care for native wildlife and their habitats.
Earth Greetings are a perpetual sponsor of Trees For Life, donating 5% of all of our profit annually. Trees For Life revegetate and protect native bushland, restore green belts to farmland and urban terrain to mitigate climate change and return homes to wildlife. Through our donations since 2008, we have directly enabled Trees For Life to plant over 40,000 native tree seedlings.
Some of the other organisations we support include:
- Adelaide Koala & Wildlife Hospital
- Animals Australia
- Australian Conservation Foundation
- Fauna Rescue SA
- Nature Conservation Council
- Save The Bilby Fund
- The Last Straw
- The Wilderness Society
- Trees For Life
- World Wildlife Fund
Earth Greetings subject our business to an annual emissions and waste audit annually. We reduce waste and emissions where possible and for those we can't, we purchase carbon offsets which are invested in the Yarra Yarra Biodiversity Corridor to help protect and recover declining woodland and shrubland fauna.
My mission is to use the most Earth friendly materials and processes available to make beautiful and useful products with the lightest possible footprint.
Heide Hackworth - Earth Greetings Founder