Lee Russell, U.S.D.A., at Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)File this in the “pretty cool” folder: a Chicago-based company has found a way to make paper without using trees (and it doesn’t involve recycling used tree-based paper).

GPA calls Ultra Green Film an “eco-friendly substrate” that not only doesn’t require trees, but doesn’t need water or bleach to make either. Instead, the paper is limestone-based, made of mineral powders bound together with small amounts of high-density polyethylene and a non-toxic resin.

Rather than being a poor but environmentally kinder substitute for “real” paper, Ultra Green Film actually outperforms the traditional stuff, according to GPA. The company says the green paper is grain free, making it great for high-resolution printing and colors. It’s also water-, grease- and scuff-resistant (so you can use it outside), static-free for easy printing and it doesn’t yellow or crack with age.

“It combines the printability of a traditional paper product with the durability of a plastic sheet,” says Carl Blase, CEO of Print Art Inc., a printing company in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, that began using the GPA paper this summer.

Print Art says replacing one ton of regular paper with GPA’s green version would save 20 trees and 25 million BTUs of energy while also eliminating 236 pounds of air pollution, 167 pounds of solid waste and 42 pounds of water pollution. It would also cut water consumption by 7,480 gallons.

Despite its innocuous appearance, paper as we use it today carries many steep environmental costs. According to the Environmental Paper Network, the pulp and paper industry is the “single largest consumer of water used in industrial activities in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries and is the third greatest industrial greenhouse gas emitter, after the chemical and steel industries.”

And, rather than moving toward a paper-free society, we’re using more of the stuff each year, with industry production projected to go up 77 percent from 1995 to 2020.

I’d like to know more about the environmental impacts of limestone mining required to make Ultra Green Film, but — at first glance — GPA’s paper sounds like a promising and much greener alternative. You can find out more about GPA and Ultra Green Film here.