As environmental concerns continue to rise, many wrongly believe that completely converting to recycled paper is the prime solution to reduce the paper industry’s carbon footprint. However, if we attempted to rely solely on recycled fibers, paper production would soon cease to exist. According to a recent article published by Two Sides, sustaining the life cycle of paper requires a balance between recycled and fresh wood fibers which when harvested from responsibly managed forests, greatly benefits the environment.
Some may be thinking, can’t we just keep recycling the paper already in use? Recycled fibers can only withstand five to seven reuses before the material becomes too weak to utilize. Without blending fresh fiber to augment paper production, the variety of paper products we have available would be severely limited. According to Metafore, “to make the global fiber cycle work, a continual input of 35% to 65% of fresh wood fiber is needed depending on the grade of the paper manufactured.”
The majority of fresh fiber used in the paper industry throughout US and Canada does not come from timber but rather from sawmill chips, a by-product of lumber production. This causes a smaller percentage of the timber harvest to be used in paper manufacturing. More importantly, the trees used by the industry come from responsibly managed forests which not only benefit the environment but have social and economic benefits as well.
It is a common misconception that producing more paper means diminishing our forests and causing environmental damage. Now stop to think about it: the paper industry and everyone involved thrive on a continual supply of healthy trees. It is in their best interest to cultivate their resources sustainably. Private forests contribute the majority of wood used in production nationally, and as their livelihood depends on replenishing these resources, they are encouraged to maintain, renew, and manage their forests responsibly.
Following sustainable practices, such as fire and disease prevention or better-growing conditions to protect their forests creates healthier timberlands that alleviate some effects of climate change. Forests are essential for reducing greenhouse gases, and healthy trees are more efficient than unhealthy ones. It’s in the interest of the industry to maintain large forests for more materials, which in turn mitigates changing climate by providing tree cover.
As counterintuitive as it may seem, using paper and wood products going forward is what will maintain our forested lands. Supporting the sustainable growth, harvesting, and consumption of products from responsibly managed forests actually maintains biodiversity and the intricate ecosystems present there. Conserving wildlife through proper forest management is a cost-effective approach and widespread strategy for improving the environment.
The significant decrease in forest land can be mainly attributed to commercial agriculture and development. When the paper industry is in possession of forest land, it is protected and maintained. However, selling the land is pivotal for the ecosystem as it is often destroyed and used for other purposes such as real estate development.
To prevent forestation and protect this sustainable lifestyle, it is essential for players in the paper industry to not only protect their responsibly managed forests but also pursue other green initiatives to improve the environment as well.
At Cox Printers and Digital Media, we not only care about our customers, we also care about our environment. Over the years we developed a number of green initiatives that not only help to power our facility but help to foster habitats for species whose population is dwindling.
Written by: Corinne Pisauro