Feature Stories


Ana Toepel and Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, June 2018


UCSF Documents and Media Switches to Tree-Free Paper

When you load a ream of paper into the copy machine, you might not realize the environmental impacts your choice of paper could have. For Mario Carmona, Business Operations Manager, UCSF Campus Life Services, Documents & Media, part of his job is balancing price, availability, and the carbon footprint of available paper options. Changes in the availability of 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled paper spurred Documents & Media to recently switch to TreeZero, a tree-free paper made from sugar cane, providing the UCSF community a carbon neutral paper option at an affordable price.

Carbon Footprint of Paper

The paper industry has a significant impact on the climate from deforestation to greenhouse gas emissions to the extensive use of water and energy. Timber harvesting for papermaking accounts for 37% of the destruction of forests, which are critical to storing carbon and cleaning the air. In line with its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, UCSF Documents & Media has been sourcing 100% PCW recycled content paper for its in-house print shop.

By choosing 100% recycled paper, UCSF Documents and Media, which uses 80 tons of paper annually, has saved thousands of trees and avoided thousands of pounds of carbon emissions compared to using virgin paper. According to the Environmental Paper Network’s paper calculator tool , one ton of virgin paper requires 24 trees and produces 5,601 pounds of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while one ton of 100% recycled content paper uses 0 trees and produces 3,533 pounds of GHG emissions (see table below):

UCSF Documents & Media Goes Tree Free

Recent changes in the paper industry, due to declining demand for office paper, made it difficult for UCSF Documents & Media to purchase the volume of 100% PCW paper it needs. Documents & Media investigated other green options—and discovered tree-free paper. “We are always looking for ways to support the Office of Sustainability and the University’s carbon neutrality goals,” said Carmona.

TreeZero paper is made from 100% bagasse, the sugar cane waste fiber leftover from sugar production. It is 100% recycled, turning an industrial waste that would be incinerated or landfilled into a useful product. Something to note is the difference between PCW and this type of recycled paper. PCW paper comes from consumer products that have served their use and then have been recycled after being diverted from the waste stream. Tree-free paper is considered “pre-consumer” or “post-industrial” waste, because it is generated from waste created during the production process. It can also be recycled after use along with other paper, becoming PCW paper in a future life.

According to Jeffrey Foote, Executive Vice President of TreeZero, use of TreeZero paper will provide UCSF with a premium quality paper designed to reduce the impacts of using paper. Foote added that sugarcane’s strong, long fibers make for a high-quality paper product with reduced jamming and dust build-up in equipment. Documents & Media did due diligence before making the switch by thoroughly testing the paper in all their equipment to ensure it worked well. So far there have been no complaints about the paper from customers.

A major benefit to the purchase of TreeZero paper for UCSF is that it is carbon neutral, which aligns with the University’s aim of carbon neutrality. Not only will UCSF’s use of TreeZero paper save 1,920 trees each year, it will also offset 80 tons of associated carbon emissions.

According to Foote, each ton of tree-free paper produced generates about one ton of carbon emissions, and they’ve done an assessment to make sure this number includes all stages in the product’s life cycle. All emissions are offset through a partnership with Wildlife Works, which conserves forests in Africa by providing job alternatives to deforestation. “TreeZero provides a model for a circular economy, where the customers, the business, and the communities where forests are threatened receive value,” shared Foote. 

Make Your Paper Choice Sustainable

UCSF Documents & Media serves UCSF, UC Berkeley, and UC Hastings Law School with printing, binding, and copying services and also manages UCSF’s Print Management Program, which can provide tree-free paper for enrolled multifunction devices.

If you have a bigger and more complex job than your office machine can handle, consider sending it to Documents & Media, which has professional-quality, production printers. “Send it to the experts and save money on labor, time, and supplies. Make sure your paper is sustainable and contribute to carbon neutrality by using our service,” suggested Carmona. Click here for service center locations, hours, and contact information.

If you are responsible for purchasing paper for your office, it is easy and affordable to purchase a tree-free option:

  • TreeZero Paper: TreeZero paper is available on BearBuy through Give Something Back for UCSF community members. There is a slight cost premium for the paper:  Five reams of TreeZero can be purchased (TPPTFLTR5) for $33.54 ($6.70 a ream). Or you can purchase a case (10 reams, TPPTFLTR10) for $55.90 ($5.59 a ream). An easy way to offset the price difference is to encourage people in your office to do more electronic document sharing and storage.

  • 100% PCW: Smaller quantities of 100% PCW paper are still currently available through BearBuy. A case (10 reams, GSB110R8511U) is $33.95 ($3.39 a ream).