Paper is good for you and the environment

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Time and again misguided and misinformed people, especially in the environmental movement, come out with the phrase of paper being a tree killed and such like. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.

We are being told that paperless is the way to go and that e-books and e-book readers are the way to go. However, does anyone consider the impact of the e-books and their readers?

I am all for PDFs which can be read on one's computer or – dare I say it – printed out for reading but e-readers, with their factored in obsolescence of a couple of years and such are, in fact, not very environmentally friendly at all, despite claims.

When the claim is made that paper is a killer of trees and printed books are called dead trees all one can say to that is that either the people making such claims are very naïve and misguided or, and I am being a devil's advocate here, have a hidden agenda.

Far from being a killer of trees paper and cardboard and the paper industry in fact are responsible for millions of acres of trees, grown to produce pulp for paper, and replanted later to grow more trees for pulp for paper. Without the paper industry many of those areas, which are often marginal lands, would not be having any significant tree cover at all and some might, in fact, be housing or industrial estates.

Paper also can be easily recycled, even if only as animal bedding, such as for chickens (and this can be done at home with a shredder) and then composted. On the other hand waste and old paper can also be used make new paper. Something that cannot be done with an e-reader.

Furthermore you never own an e-book for, say, Kindle, but only, even though you pay good money for it, borrow it, to all intents and purposes. You may not, legally, pass it on to someone else, not even onto someone else's e-reader. A printed book, on the other hand, you can pass on, resell or what have you. You own it. Not so with an e-book.

The paper industry has the stigma of being incredibly harmful for the environment. However, here are some facts for you to make it clearer as to why this is not the case:

  • Paper’s primary raw materials are renewable resources and the paper and forest products industry plants more than 1.7 million trees every day in the U.S. alone. That is three more times than what is harvested.

  • Paper is biodegradable, recyclable, and reusable. Almost 60% of all paper is recycled in the U.S. The stats for other countries may be better or they may be worse but all of that can be changed.

  • The paper industry is one of the world’s largest users of renewable, low-carbon energy. 60% of the energy used to make paper in the U.S. comes from self-generated carbon-neutral renewable resources.

Here are a couple of more fact that link to the above or stand separately:

  • The forest products industry is the largest producer of renewable biomass energy in the United States, generating 77% of the nation’s industrial biomass energy. Additionally, the renewable energy generated by the forest products industry exceeds all of the nation’s solar, wind and geothermal energy generation combined.

  • The forest products industry is also a leader in the production of renewable energy, with more than 65% of the on-site energy needed to produce paper products derived from carbon-neutral biomass.

  • More trees are grown in the United States than which are harvested and the amount of U.S. forestland has remained essentially the same for the last 100 years at about 750 million acres, even though the U.S. population tripled during the same period.

When it comes to the paper industry, their forests are not part of the state forests in any country generally but they actually have their own woods and forests which they manage for wood for paper and cardboard. And, if the use of paper would cease tomorrow altogether, or we'd all use less of the stuff, many of those forests would be grubbed out and sold to developers no doubt.

In more cases than not paper is better for you and the environment than would be the electronic equivalent. So let's stop the perpetuation of the myths that paper is causing the deforestation of the Amazon and other tropical forests and deforestation in general. It simply is not true.

© 2013