Responsible Purchasing Network

Copy Paper


According to the U.S. EPA, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper — that's two cases — every year. Collectively, that's four million tons annually! Manufacturing paper, particularly from virgin materials (usually trees), uses significant amounts of energy, water, and chemicals and contributes to local pollution and global deforestation problems.

Reducing paper consumption and buying sustainable paper can reduce these environmental impacts and save money. For example, using imaging equipment with auto-duplexing enabled can cut paper consumption by 40%.

Key elements of a successful sustainable paper strategy include:

RPN recommends the following specifications for copy paper:


Alameda County

Alameda County, CA - Office Paper Bid Excerpt – May 2014

Alameda County's office paper bid specifies 100% post-consumer recycled content white copy paper and a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled content for other papers, which aligns with their goals from their Climate Action Plan and Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy. The document also includes pricing information for their current contract.

View the specifications


Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) - Copy & Multipurpose Paper: Model EPP Specifications and Purchasing Guidelines – Oct 2014

Developed in partnership with RPN and other paper experts, this document provides purchasers with model specifications and purchasing guidelines for buying environmentally preferable copy and multipurpose paper. The specifications include three priority levels of paper criteria as well as recommended vendor requirements and preferences.

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State of New York

State of New York - Printing Specifications

The State of New York's printing specifications for publications and promotional materials cover recycled content, duplexing, reporting of paper use, ink, and environmental performance. All state publications are required to be printed on 100% post-consumer recycled content paper where practicable. Any non-recycled content must be certified by a third party certification program, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

View the specifications



City of Palo Alto

City of Palo Alto, CA - Paper Reduction and Procurement of Environmentally Preferable Paper Products – Feb 2018

The City of Palo Alto's paper policy directs the agencies to buy 100% post-consumer recycled content, process chlorine-free (PCF) copy paper. The policy also includes a 25% paper reduction target from 2016 levels, environmental standards for other types of paper, a provision that vendors must comply with the policy and report on paper use upon request, a requirement that imaging equipment be compatible with and only use 100% post-consumer recycled content paper, and guidance on getting the bet price for paper products.

View the policy

City of Portland

City of Portland, OR - Sustainable Paper Use Policy

The City of Portland, OR's Sustainable Paper Use Policy addresses: 1) reducing paper consumption; 2) defining environmentally preferable paper purchasing criteria; and 3. tracking paper consumption. All paper and paper products purchased by the City must meet the U.S. EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) at a minimum. The policy also contains provisions for giving preference to process chlorine free (PCF) and totally chlorine free (TCF) papers as well as directing 10% of its paper purchases to products that demonstrate one or more additional fiber sourcing attributes.

View the policy


Case Studies

paper calculator

State of Colorado Greening Government Leadership Council - Annual Report Card - 2017

Colorado's Greening Government Leadership Council (GGLC) releases an annual report card outlining the progress of the State's executive branch agencies toward achieving greening government goals. Currently, 73.25% of Colorado's paper purchases contain a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled content, which surpasses their goal of at least 50% of their purchases meeting this criteria. RPN provided technical support in calcualting Colorado's green spend on copy paper.

View the report

Alameda County, CA

Alameda County, CA - Success Stories in Purchasing: Office Paper and Printing Services - 2015

Alameda County, CA outlines the strategies they used to reduce their paper use, buy better paper, and advance green purchasing efforts locally both on their website and in a detailed case study that received an Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council award in 2015.

View the webpage

View the case study

City of Portland

City of Portland, OR - Green Spend Snapshot - FY2015-16

The City of Portland reports annually on their green spend, which includes copy paper. Portland's goal is that all copy paper contains at least 30% post-consumer recycled content. For FY 2015-16, 99% of their paper purchases met this criteria.

View the snapshot


Resources and Tools

paper calculator

Environmental Paper Network - Paper Calculator

The Paper Calculator enables users to calculate and compare the environmental impacts of different paper choices. The Paper Calculator is supported by the Environmental Paper Network, a coalition of over 100 nonprofit organizations working toward the sustainable production and consumption of pulp and paper.

View the calculator


Environmental Paper Network - Global Paper Vision - Mar 2014

The Environmental Paper Network's Global Paper Vision contains a long-term vision as well as goals and sub-goals that the paper industry needs to achieve in order to become socially and environmentally sustainable. The vision statement concludes with a commitment by signatories to work together towards the vision.

View the Vision

King County

King County, WA - Reducing Office Paper Consumption - Oct 2017

King County, WA compiled a list of useful paper prevention and reduction strategies and resources.

View the webpage

King County

RPN/NASPO - North Dakota's Greener Paper Project: Tracking Recycled Content in Paper Products - June 2012

This report summarizes the State of North Dakota's system for tracking its recycled paper purchases; describes the methods employed by other states, federal agencies, and local governments to address similar tracking issues; and recommends steps for North Dakota to more comprehensively report on their recycled paper purchases.

View the report


Standards and Eco-Labels


U.S. EPA - Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) for Paper and Paper Products

The U.S. EPA developed minimum recycled content procurement standards for several product categories, including printing and writing papers. Federal agencies are required to follow these guidelines. Additionally, many state and local government agencies use the CPG as a baseline for their sustainable purchasing programs. The current CPG for copy paper is 30% post-consumer recycled content.

Learn more

Green Seal

Green Seal - GS-07 Printing and Writing Paper - 2013

Green Seal is is an independent nonprofit that develops standards for a variety of products, including printing and writing paper. The Green Seal standard for copy paper requires products to have a minimum of 30% post-consumer recycled content and to be process chlorine-free (PCF). Green Seal-certified papers can be found here.

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UL ECOLOGO - UL 2771 Sustainability Standard for Paper - 2011

UL manages ECOLOGO, a set of third-party, multi-attribute lifecycle-based environmental certifications. The ECOLOGO standard for paper includes requirements for paper to be sourced from sustainably managed forests and produced without elemental chlorine. Products also receive points for recycled content and other environmental attributes. ECOLOGO-certified papers are listed on the UL SPOT database.

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Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

FSC is an independent nonprofit that sets standards for responsible forest management. FSC has three certification labels: 1) "FSC 100%," which means that paper was sourced from well-managed forests, 2) "FSC Recycled," which means that paper is 100% recycled with at least 85% post-consumer waste, and 3) "FSC Mix," which means that paper contains a mix of recycled content and virgin fiber from well-managed forests. FSC-certified papers can be found here.

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Sustainable Paper

RPN Webinar: Sustainable Paper Procurement - New Tools and Strategies for Success - May 2018

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Purchasing environmentally preferable paper products seems simple: choose products with a high percentage of post-consumer recycled content that are manufactured without chlorinated bleaching agents. Done. However, over the past few years, environmental standards for paper have become more complex. Some give credit for paper products that contain agricultural waste, "rapidly renewable" and (certified) sustainably harvested virgin tree fibers, and even "biobased" content. Come learn why purchasing environmentally preferable paper products is needed — now more than ever — and is the cornerstone of a sustainable purchasing program.

This webinar features:

  • Joshua Martin, Director, Environmental Paper Network

  • Julie Weiss, Project Manager, City of Palo Alto, CA

  • Karen Cook, Sustainability Project Manager, Alameda County, CA

  • Alicia Culver, Executive Director, RPN

Tracking Recycled Paper

RPN Webinar: Best Practices: Tracking Recycled Paper - Nov 2013

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Learn about a new report by RPN that details several effective strategies for gathering, interpreting, and presenting information on recycled paper purchases. Hear how the State of North Dakota's procurement office and print shop are working together to put some of these best practices in place as part of their Greener Paper Project.

This webinar features:

  • Susan Kinsella, Senior Research Analyst, RPN and Director, Conservatree

  • Chad Keech, Procurement Officer II, North Dakota Office of Management and Budget

  • Ken Hamel, Print Manager, State of North Dakota

  • Sarah Church, Research Analyst, RPN (moderator)