This eco-friendly Japanese newspaper is embedded with seeds that sprouts flowers when planted

People have different ways of disposing of their paper waste, specifically newspapers. Some put it in the recycle bin, while others keep it to be used as packing paper. While these are both good and eco-friendly measures, a Japanese publishing company had a better idea for its end-use.

The Mainichi Shimbunsha invented the “Green Newspaper,” a paper that allows you to grow plants with it.

This unique newspaper was published on May 4, 2016, for “Greenery Day,” a special edition dedicated to environmental news.

A stand displaying 'green newspapers"
Yoshinaka Ono

That day, news and current affairs were printed on 100% biodegradable paper and embedded with seeds. When planted, the seeds would grow into beautiful flowers.

The publisher instructed readers to tear the discarded newspaper into small pieces and plant the shreds in soil. After that, they should water the container, like they would any plant. Within a few weeks, the plants and flowers will start to bloom.

Making the periodic even more sustainable is the plant-based ink used to print the words and photos.

A "green newspaper" next to its sprouted flowers
Yoshinaka Ono

This brilliant concept was conceived by Dentsu Inc., one of Japan’s most prominent advertising agencies that work with The Mainichi. The publisher’s core value is environmental sustainability, and the company certainly stays true to its objectives.

Its mission statement says:

“The Mainichi doesn’t take action only through information, but also by solving global issues.”

In the past, Dentsu Inc. has proven its commitment to environmental protection by initiating an advertising campaign on water donations for populations suffering from thirst.

Aside from the plantable newspaper, the initiative also included educational and events components. For example, the Mainichi gave lessons on environmental issues in schools across Japan and used the Green Newspaper as the primary learning tool.

The publisher also organized public events that demonstrated how to properly plant the newspaper. It also held discussions to teach children the importance of recycling and respect for nature.

A pot of plants planted with shreds from the "green newspaper"
Yoshinaka Ono

This Green Newspaper project reached a whopping 4.6 million people and produced over 80 million yen (USD700,000) for The Mainichi.

The initiative also caused much sensation and inspiration for people on the internet and gained exposure far beyond printed newspapers.

The Green Newspaper project was able to highlight the industry’s ability to reach a significant number of people and draw attention to critical environmental issues.

The good news is that this movement didn’t end in Japan. Similar initiatives have sprouted elsewhere in the world, including India and the United States, where several companies have begun to produce plantable paper for different purposes.

The U.S. began manufacturing notecards, wrapping paper, stationery, and more paper products that consumers can use to grow plants.

Public events held around the Green Newspaper initiative
Yoshinaka Ono

According to data from the University of Southern Indiana, the average American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees [1]. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees per year.

Today, the internet has significantly impacted how people consume news, and print readership has declined rapidly. That’s because many news sites have gone online to reach audiences much faster.

However, there isn’t much literature available proving that e-media is better than paper. The environmental benefits of going paperless aren’t entirely clear yet [2]. Still, projects like this encourage the masses to be more mindful of their surroundings—and that’s already a win in itself.

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