Each year, 15 billion trees are cut down for various uses, translating to approximately 2.7 million trees being destroyed each and every day. The significant amount of tree removal results in deforestation which negatively affects aspects of life such as biodiversity, carbon sinks and climate change, and land rights. A leading cause to this mass destruction is the paper industry. Almost half of the trees that are cut down are used in paper products, impacting the environment.
Since the beginning of human civilization, the number of trees in the world has decreased by 46%. The rapid consumption has made an unjustified impact on our world. A typical office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper per year, and of that 10,000 about 45% lands in the waste basket at the end of the day. Not only does the paper industry consume the valued trees, it also uses a significant amount of water, energy, and money. Since almost half of the products produced are trashed, the rates of forest destruction are unnecessary.
What will happen if we continue this path?
For years, consumers have been told to conserve their use of paper, but the world is using more paper than it has ever before. Since 1980, global paper consumption has increased by approximately 50%. The culture of a country impacts their accessibility as well as their mindedness of consumption. Americans and Europeans have made the most apparent blow by using more than 50% of the world’s paper. These countries have integrated large amounts of paper usage into their daily lives. Though breaking the cycle is difficult, it can be achieved.
If the consumption rate continues as it is now, in less than 100 years, all rainforests on earth with be compromised. The destruction of these forests is not only disastrous for the environment and animals, but also for humans. Rainforests account for necessary supplies of oxygen, freshwater, and food.
What We Can Do
The United States alone uses 69 million tons of paper and paperboard each year. Before printing, we need to ask ourselves if the paper used is necessary, and if it will end up in the trash at the end of the day. If the answer is yes, it is necessary, print two sided. Offices can typically reduce 20% or more of their consumption. Not only would taking this course of action save the environment, it would also save energy and money.
A single piece of paper can be recycled 5 to 7 times in its life cycle before its fibers become too short to bond. Furthermore, recycled paper products can be used to make more that 5,000 products including paper and paper towels, masking tape, paper money, and coffee filters. Recycling just one ton of paper saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and enough energy to power a home for 6 months. Making paper from recycled fibers instead of forest fibers reduces energy consumption by 44%. Many contries have improved their efforts to save the environment through recycling programs. The global paper recycling rate is at 58%, and some countries have achieved a recycling rate of up to 75%.
The benefits of going paperless are opportunistic both for the environment and people. In offices, going digital can reduce office clutter, provide quick and organized access to information, reduce costs, and create a faster and more proficient means of communication. As for personal paper reduction, instead of writing notes on paper, open up the notes app or a page on the computer. For reading, invest in a Kindle. It’s compact, which allows for an easier travel experience. Many businesses are offering a digital receipt option for their customers. Cell phone bills, utility bills, and insurance bills can all be transferred to a digital copy as well.
Trees give environmental, social, and economic benefits to our world. Trees can absorb up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year, one of the major contributing factors to the greenhouse effect. They also reduce ozone layers by and urban runoff by providing shelter with their height and leaves. Economically, they serve as protection from both the wind and the sun, which can help save cooling and heating costs. Socially, they provide benefits to neighborhoods and businesses. With the addition of trees, the mental and physical health of those around them are positively impacted.
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About the Author: Anne-Marie Maher