Environmentally Friendly: Recycled Paper
There are a lot of issues and debates about the logging industry, and their practices. While I might be considered a tree hugger by many, I won’t climb up on my soapbox, which is constructed out of 100% all natural, sustainable, organic, recycled, and recyclable materials.
About 1/3 of all cut wood in the United States is used for making paper. The process of making paper is not environmentally friendly; and, according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), paper mills are some of the worst air, water, and land polluters. The paper industry uses toxic chemicals, like methanol, chlorine dioxide, toluene, hydrochloric acid, and formaldehyde, which are released into the air and water.
Trees are a renewable resource. This means that there are green options for tree farms to use. Coupling these with environmentally friendly production would make paper use better for everyone. However, tree farms are not the only place where logging occurs. When forests are stripped of their trees, it is difficult for the natural flora and animals that live there to adjust.
Alternatives to Cutting Trees
There are protestors out there who chain themselves to trees, but I think it is more effective to do something before the trees are flagged for cutting: choose recycled paper.
Recycled paper saves trees, reduces waste, and minimizes pollution. This is the most common option for saving trees. In 1998, the United States kept 45% of all the paper used out of landfills through recycling efforts. Most U.S. paper makers use some percentage of recycled paper instead of using purely virgin wood, and some mills use only recycled materials. When you choose to buy recycled paper instead of non-recycled paper, you are creating more of a demand—which will lead to more companies seeing that recycled is the way to go.
If you convince the company you work for or school you attend to start purchasing primarily recycled, eco-friendly paper, this organization will have a positive impact on the environment. When I was in college, I worked with a student group to get the school to buy primarily recycled paper for the entire campus.
Beyond using recycled paper, mills can also substitute percentages of substitutes into the raw materials used for making paper. Using agricultural waste (agri-pulp) instead of wood leads to less trees being used, less waste produced, and less pollution released.
If you aren’t in the position to get a company or school to switch to recycled paper, you can make a difference by doing it in your own home. When shopping, remember to buy recycled. And, don’t forget to recycle paper yourself, at home and work. The trash can is no place for paper.
If you are interested in learning more, I suggest James Ficklin’s film Tree Sit: The Art of Resistance, which offers a history of the logging industry.
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