About the Paper Calculator

The Paper Calculator is a publicly available web-based tool which allows users to calculate and compare the estimated environmental impacts of different paper choices using a science-based methodology grounded in life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA is a tool that can be used to assess the environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of a product, from raw material extraction and processing to the end-of-life phase. LCA provides a unique, quantified approach for comparing the environmental performance of different sources of fiber. 

The Paper Calculator is supported by the Environmental Paper Network, a respected coalition of over 140 not-for-profit organizations working together toward a common goal that paper production and use contributes to a clean, healthy, just and sustainable future for life on earth. The Paper Calculator is widely recognized as the most credible, most transparent and most independent calculator of environmental impact estimates for a wide variety of paper choices. Thousands of high-profile companies and organizations are utilizing it and citing its results.

The Paper Calculator has a long history as the most comprehensive resource for calculating and comparing the impacts of paper. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released the original Paper Calculator in 2005 and managed the tool until 2011, at which time it was transferred to the ownership of the Environmental Paper Network (EPN). The scientific basis for the original Paper Calculator’s model was the detailed analysis by the Paper Task Force, an intensive, three-year, multi-stakeholder research project convened by Environmental Defense Fund, Duke University, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald's, Prudential Insurance, and Time Inc. The resulting Paper Task Force Report, published in 1995, represented the most comprehensive research effort of its time, assisted by hundreds of experts from diverse perspectives. The report created the first-ever recommendations for purchasing environmentally preferable paper, and it is still today widely respected as a landmark multi-stakeholder collaboration, backed by science and executed with the highest level of transparency.

Since its release, the Paper Calculator has been regularly updated based upon new research, data and information from trusted independent and industry sources, including undergoing significant upgrades in 2009, 2011 and 2018, and routine annual or biennial updates. The Environmental Paper Network employs an independent consulting firm to provide life cycle analysis and assessment for the Paper Calculator’s methodology, and also utilizes a volunteer panel of experts who regularly review the Calculator’s assumptions and research and prioritize updates for the tool.

In 2018, the Environmental Paper Network completed a major overhaul of the Paper Calculator, now available as Version 4.0. A life cycle assessment was conducted to evaluate the impact profile of 14 different paper grades, using a methodology conforming to ISO 14044, the draft LEO-S-002 standard, the Product Category Rule (PCR) for Pulp and Paper, the Product Category Rule (PCR) Module for Roundwood and the LCIA Methodology for Roundwood and Pulp/Paper PCR Modules.

For additional information about the Paper Calculator’s methodology, please see the Life Cycle Assessment Methodology Document for the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator v4.0 document, which is available under the “RESOURCES” tab of the Paper Calculator website. For additional questions, users are invited to contact the Environmental Paper Network directly at info@environmentalpaper.org.

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