New Paper Products Give Schools More Opportunities to Act Sustainably

When it comes to sustainable paper, people tend to think about recycled content. While both purchasing paper with recycled content and recycling are important aspects of any green cleaning program, there’s even more to consider when making responsible paper supply choices. The production process and raw materials can also have significant impact on the environment.

For example, some manufacturers are rethinking sustainability and using new forms of rapidly renewable materials to make more earth-friendly products that meet high performance standards. Kimberly-Clark Professional’s new line of washroom products, GreenHarvest*, is made with 20% plant fibers. In addition, all of their paper towels are now compostable.

GreenHarvest* products, which include paper towels and toilet paper, are made with rapidly renewable plant fibers like bamboo and wheat straw. These materials have a shorter harvesting cycle, meaning less land is needed to grow them. In addition, wheat straw is an agricultural byproduct. In other words, here’s an example of a manufacturer who is making purchases of fiber from U.S. farmers, reducing farm waste and supporting local agriculture. This is a great example of how the entire production cycle can–and should–be considered when making more sustainable product choices.

Composting Tips

And as we consider the entire lifecycle of the paper products we use, it’s important to also explore composting to see if that option is right for your school. Compostable paper towels bring the zero waste concept beyond the cafeteria and into the washroom. Compostable paper towels can be completely diverted from a landfill and turned into compost, a nutrient-rich material used to fertilize crops, plants and flowers. By keeping paper towels out of landfills, facilities can reduce their carbon footprint and help farmers grow healthy crops. Offerings like these bring new options for schools looking to expand their sustainability initiatives.

We recently spoke with Ben Jarrett, North America Sustainability Leader at Kimberly-Clark Professional. He had some advice for schools looking to make a switch to compostable paper towels. “The first thing to do is to be clear about what the goals are for any zero waste or waste diversion program,” says Jarrett. “Second, look at what opportunities exist and map that out to see what can be diverted and finally, work out solutions.”

Jarrett recommends working with your current waste hauler and experts in the field of composting to come up with a plan for setting up a system that works best for your school. For help with those big conversations, Jarrett says there are experts ready to help schools with their waste avoidance strategies for no cost. “We have a national sales force who can help schools identify ways to reduce waste and to find products to meet sustainability goals,” says Jarrett. Kimberly-Clark Professional also offers signage and guidance to help schools educate their communities about new composting programs.

Many facilities might focus on food waste at first, and later decide to add compostable paper towels to their composting program. Paper towels provide carbon, a beneficial nutrient that fortifies food-waste compost. In addition, a mix of lighter, dryer paper compost with wet food waste helps to keep fruit flies and odors out of composting receptacles.

Would you like to learn more about green cleaning, sustainability and how to make better selections for your school maintenance program? Check out our 5 Steps to Green Cleaning in Schools to get started.

Kimberly-Clark Professional is a supporter of Healthy Schools Campaign’s Green Clean Schools program. We also recently profiled their infection control program in our Green Clean Schools blog.