We have all seen the slug line at the bottom of an email asking us to think long and hard about printing the email out in order to “save trees.” As Earth Day approaches, we wanted to take aim at the common myth that making paper always destroys forests.
In fact, paper production fosters sustainable forest management by providing a reliable market for paper pulp. Trees are planted and grown as a crop, encouraging land owners to manage their forestlands, rather than selling them for development or other non-forest uses.
While the crop of trees is growing, it supplies many benefits, including:
Combating climate change
Excess carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by many factors is building up in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced by driving a car 26,000 miles.
Cleaning the air
Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
Adding oxygen to the atmosphere
In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.
Preventing the erosion of soil
On hillsides or stream slopes, trees slow runoff and their roots hold soil in place.
In addition, take a look at these interesting facts:
Over the last six decades, the net total US forest area has increased by over 3% and the net volume of trees on timberland has increased by 58%. In Canada, the forest cover has remained stable over the last 2 decades and .5% of Canada’s forest resource is harvested each year.
–USDA Forest Service 2012 and Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, 2014
Avoiding the use of wood is not the way to protect forests for the long term. It is precisely the areas of the world that consume the least wood that continue to experience the greatest forest loss.
–Dovetail Partners, 2014
But…what about the Amazon Rain-forest? According to the Brazilian Tree Industry, 100% of paper production in that country comes from trees planted specifically for that purpose. Paper production “is not the cause of native forest deforestation, quite on the contrary: planted trees recover areas that were previously degraded by people’s actions and contribute to preserve biodiversity.”
–IBA’ Brazilian Tree Industry, 2016
Paper, unlike fossil fuels, is one of the most recyclable and recycled resources on the planet. So the next time you see that warning against printing out the email, feel free to smile and feel OK about hitting “print”. You are not killing trees to do so.