Earth Day is on April 22nd, which often brings up questions and misconceptions about our reliance on paper and what we can each do to be the most environmentally-friendly as possible. Paper has run the full gambit – from being the best, to vilified, and back again. There’s a lot of misunderstanding and false info out there about paper. With so much information and contrasting opinions available, here’s why we shouldn’t be afraid to use paper.
Research has found that smartphone users touch their phone an average of 2,617 times per day. This number increases when digital devices are used in an office or classroom. These distractions disrupt focus, attention span, and engagement, interfering with critical time that could be used for productivity. Ink on paper is a multi-sensory experience, and research has shown that the greater number of senses stimulated provides greater memory retention and emotional connection to the content. Working on paper is therapeutic, helping you slow down and be more mindful of your thoughts.
So paper is a greater productivity asset than digital alternatives. But what about the environmental impact? No one wants to have the idea of filling landfills hanging on their shoulders. Luckily, when recycled correctly, paper is actually a great renewable resource.
Unlike many of the resources we extract from the earth, paper is inherently renewable and recyclable. Its raw material, wood fiber, is natural and sustainable. Paper is easily collected and recycled, ensuring these valuable fibers are used time and time again. The paper industry supports the circular economy by using all parts of the tree and by-products or waste produced from other wood product processes. This includes forest thinnings, sawmill chips and sawdust, which can all be used in the manufacture of paper.
The paper industry is also a huge supporter of sustainable forest management. For every tree harvested from a managed tree farm, five more are planted, adding 1.7 million trees every day! If we stopped using paper, these tree farms could very well be forced to develop their land into real estate–and once the trees are gone, they’re gone for good. Fortunately we do use paper, and when we do, we grow more and more trees.
Unlike environmental impacts from internet equipment or tailpipe emissions, paper can offset its own impact. One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and emits four tons of oxygen. Through the process of photosynthesis, every tree can absorb more than 10 pounds of carbon each year – offsetting the carbon that’s emitted during the paper-making process. Each year the US’s forests store enough carbon to offset about 12% of the entire nation’s carbon emissions.
This isn’t to say that you should never use screens, we are fortunate to live in a miraculous time of tremendous convenience and information accessibility. Rather, paper materials can be a great supplement to technology and enrich your life, which shouldn’t be taken for granted or thought of as an unsustainable resource. For more information about paper myths, check out this great resource about sustainability here.