The most abundant used piece of paper that any of us has touched, is without a doubt, paper currency. We pass it from person to person on a daily basis. But how many times have we actually thought about the process of how money is made and if it has an impact on the environment.

The term “greenback” is used to refer to the United States paper currency, many of us have heard and used this term before. It originated in the 1800’s to refer to newly printed, green-colored U.S. currency, and is still used today because the backs of the current Federal Reserve notes are printed with green ink. A greenback is now understood to mean any denomination of U.S. currency.

Well over 100 years old, today there is more to the greenback than just green ink. With awareness of the environmentally conscious society, the greenback truly is “green”. All United States currency is printed on substrate (currency paper) that is a combination of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen. When cotton and flax (linen is made from the flax plant) are planted and harvested, a certain amount of energy is consumed and carbon dioxide is created. This is referred to commonly as a carbon footprint. In this scenario, the carbon footprint is how much carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) is produced while growing the materials that make up the paper on which currency is printed.

Obtaining the materials used to make the inks to print the currency also has a carbon footprint. While the cotton and flax plants are growing, they consume, through photosynthesis, much more carbon dioxide that is required to produce the currency’s raw materials. Actually on a per one-dollar notes basis, the plants will consume (carbon sequestration) 46 times the amount of carbon produced obtaining all of the major materials for the one-dollar note. There you go, that is why the greenback is really “green”.

The Bureau also demonstrates its commitment to being an environmentally responsible corporate citizen in several other ways. Replacing old printing equipment with newer ones which consume less ink and employ state-of-the-art air scrubbers, which reduce air emissions significantly. The use of low volatile organic compound (VOC) inks and low VOC cleaners in the presses will further reduce possible pollution. Recycling is done whenever possible. Also the Bureau is working on a new waste water recycling system that will recycle approximately 95 percent of the water used in the printing process. These efforts along with other proactively demonstrate that keeping the greenback and the environment “green” is a strategic objective at the Bureau.