Each year BJ Ball sells a very large volume of paper. Paper that is largely manufactured from wood pulp. Wood pulp of course comes from trees. So, is the planet going to become devoid of trees because of paper consumption? Will we end up wading through knee deep paper waste?
In a word - no. The facts are, right now we're winning the paper war. Here's how:
Paper is one of the most renewable resources ever!
Paper is a fully renewable, natural resource – it truly is one of humankinds most genius inventions.
Most of the timber used in paper production is grown specifically for the industry in sustainably managed and legally harvested forests. This means when a tree is harvested, it is replaced. In many instances more trees are being planted than harvested and the current ratio is three trees planted for every one removed. In Europe where a lot of high quality corporate paper is manufactured, the last fifteen years has seen forestry areas increase by more than 13 million hectares. How many trees is that? Heaps…(actually, it's an area about the size of Greece).
But what about deforestation?
Indeed, a very real problem and one that shouldn't be ignored. The fact is however, only 11% of all timber felled around the world goes into paper production.
Deforestation is happening because developing nations are clearing space for agriculture and housing development as their populations increase. The solution requires improved, more responsible economic and environmental practices in these nations, plus the support of the international community. The issue is not related to you wanting to buy your favourite glossy magazine.
Does paper production contribute to global warming and excessive energy use?
Consider that sustainable forestry means more trees, more trees absorb more greenhouse gases such as harmful carbon dioxide. This is good news. As for power consumption, in the last thirty years technical innovations mean that half of all the energy used by the paper industry in Europe comes from renewable energy sources. Since 1990, the paper industry has reduced its energy use by approximately 27%.
Remember that energy is consumed in all industrial production. You probably don't realise that email spam accounts for over 33 billion kWh of energy annually.
Imagine if we cut that down...!
Also, bear-in-mind that synthetic materials such as plastics or metals require very heavy industrial processes. Some studies in the US are indicating that the complex manufacturing process of one e-reader could have a carbon footprint the equivalent of 100 books! Why? Because e-readers don't grow on trees!
Paper is also one of the most recyclable resources!
What happens to old paper? Often it lives on! Paper can usually be recycled up to six times before its fibrous quality becomes too unsuitable for reuse as paper. It is then usually either put through a waste management process or reused in a number of other ways (such as the bulking material put inside many modern office desks!).
Don't forget that paper is a natural product and is therefore biodegradable.
Consider this, if you buried an old laptop along with a similar volume of paper in your backyard – guess which one would biodegrade quicker! We all love digital media, but what we forget is that anything synthetic is difficult to recycle and doesn't bode well as landfill.
So what can you do to make a difference?
Consider what you consume and purchase. Everything you consume in your day-to-day life has to come from somewhere – and has to go somewhere. Natural products like paper come from a renewable resource, then get recycled and then through responsible waste management return to the earth. The same can not be said for a lot of other products.
If you are a commercial designer or printer, choose to specify paper stocks that have come from sustainably managed sources.
And, recycle. Recycle. Recycle. Put old paper in the recycle bin!