About Fresh Press
Fresh Press started in 2012 with funding from the Student Sustainability Committee at the University of Illinois. Professors Steve Kostell and Eric Benson wondered if paper made from agricultural residue or "waste" (corn stover, soy, eggplant or tomato vines, and prairie grasses) could help make the paper industry sustainable. By switching the supply chain from the forest to the farm, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, restore wildlife, and help American farmers.
This mission at Fresh Press continues today by making handmade sheets of paper from different fibers to test their respective qualities (like tensile strength) to determine if each have commercial viability in the marketplace. In the process of this experimentation, we create many sheets of different sizes and fibers that we offer to the campus for purchase and artistic exploration.
Our paper making process starts on the farm, where it is dried, chipped, and cooked. It is then brought to our studio where it is beaten to a pulp, pulled into sheets, pressed, and dried before it's able to be used.
Why Use Agricultural Residue?
Agricultural residue is the unused remains of crops that are often burned in the field, creating air pollution. In North America over 200 million tons of agricultural residue goes unused (US Dept. of Energy). Selling this fiber to paper mills can reduce air pollution and save trees by replacing wood fiber for making paper or packaging. This is better for us and the environment. In a recent lifecycle study (pdf) by Step Forward Paper, wheat straw (or the remnants of the wheat harvest) paper was shown to have less than half of the negative impact on the environment in comparison to 100% virgin tree fiber paper.