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Simple Ways to Help Save Trees

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Do you play outdoors with your kids and talk about the animals that live in forests?  We try to connect the bird nesting in the treetop with good reasons not to litter.  When we play guessing games like, “where does this animal live?” we try to learn new words like “habitat.”  It seemed like an easy lesson to make our own recycled paper and talk about saving trees.

Then, I tried looking up the statistics on how many sheets of paper can be made from one tree.   According to various industry and ecology experts, the figure is as high as 90,000 sheets of paper that one tree can produce.  When we consider that it’s way more paper than the average family could use in a year, maybe one tree isn’t such a big sacrifice? Or is it?

I decided to ask some folks who’ve been spending a lot of time researching paper production and its impact on our planet.  Director Frank Locantore and Organizer Sophie Glass run the Better Paper Project at GreenAmerica.org.  They say that the way we make, use and dispose of paper destroys native forests and biodiversity.  That means that the clear-cut rolling mountains that my daughters think have been replanted in “Christmas trees” are not ever going to replicate the rich wildlife habitat that once existed.  Glass says, “These industrial tree plantations often use very harmful pesticides, herbicides and often grow genetically modified (GMO) trees.”  The Project also notes that traditional paper production uses fresh water, pollutes the air and emits greenhouse gases.  Ever drive near a paper mill and smell that stench in the air?  The Project makes clear that paper choice affects forests, climate and communities.

The Better Paper Project specifically tries to influence the magazine industry to go green.  That’s because, even in the age of the internet, an estimated one tree is cut down every second to feed our love of magazines.  The Project estimates that if all North American magazine publishers used a mere 30-percent of post-consumer recycled paper, this would save more than 10 million trees.  Other potential ecological savings:  more than 6.5 million BTUs of energy, nearly 7 billion gallons of wastewater, 780 million pounds of garbage, more than 1.5 billion pounds of CO2 not polluting the atmosphere.

I asked about the perception that recycled paper is more expensive than conventional paper products.  The argument is that recycled paper should not have to be more expensive, and can even be cheaper.  It’s really about changing the way business is done.  Glass explained that paper mills can build or retool their facilities to efficiently handle deinked paper fiber.  The Project is trying to encourage publishers to plan ahead and even use its Buying Club to get better prices on recycled paper.  Locantore explains that publishers can also consider reducing the basis weight of each hundred pounds of product, essentially making pages a bit thinner.  The Project is trying to work as a resource for those in the paper industry who want to reduce their environmental impact.

What about those of us on the consumer side?  The Better Paper Project suggests these simple tips reprinted with permission below:

• Reduce! Get off of junk mail lists and don’t subscribe to magazines that refuse to use recycled paper. https://www.catalogchoice.org/

• Reuse! Use the backside of paper for notes and printing.

• Recycle! Make sure to recycle all your paper products so that they can be turned into new products. Also, be sure to only buy paper that has recycled content and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

I’ll add to that list one more:  Play outside with your kids and help them appreciate how trees protect habitat for birds and all the rest of us sharing this planet.

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