Reasons to reduce our “paper footprints”
Logging: 40% of the world’s commercially cut timber is used for the production of virgin fiber paper (which comes straight from a tree). Over 30 million acres of forest are destroyed annually. Paper plantations are better than deforestation, but because plantation trees are planted in rows, sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, and harvested before maturity, they offer no habitat to wildlife and no benefits to the environment.
Energy use: Paper production is the third most energy-intensive of all manufacturing industries, using over 12% of all energy in the industrial sector.
Pollution: According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “the paper and pulp industry may contribute to more global and local environmental problems than any industry in the world.” The paper industry releases persistent toxic pollutants including chlorine, dioxins, furans, mercury, lead, and phosphorus, resulting in a legacy of health problems including cancers, allergies, immune and endocrine system problems, nerve disorders, and fertility problems.
Water and oil usage: Each ton of paper manufactured uses 7,000 gallons of water and 380 gallons of oil.
Land fills: Despite an increase in paper recycling, approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S. Commercial and residential paper waste accounts for 30-40% of waste going to the landfill. Eliminating paper waste would greatly lengthen the lives of current landfills.
Climate change emissions: When paper decomposes, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The paper and pulp industry is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the manufacturing sector.
Simple steps to take to reduce paper usage
Replace paper whenever possible: Use cloth napkins, rags, dish towels, and handkerchiefs. Wash them only when soiled, and wash with other laundry. Use durable, washable plates and cups. Carry a thermos or reusable water bottle instead of using disposable cups. Reduce use of packaging by buying bulk foods using reusable containers. Change bills to “paperless” and pay them online, by phone, or through automatic debiting. Stop as much junk mail as possible.
Tip: Using a LoveThisNapkinRack! with cloth napkins would be a good start!
Use recycled paper products: When we must use paper, let’s purchase paper products with the highest post-consumer content % available and made without bleach, preferably also with no added pigments, inks, or dyes. Select packaging with the same standards and with the greatest amount of product relative to packaging.