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Debunking the Myth: Is Paper Printing Detrimental for the Environment?

If I were to tell you that printing on paper actually helps the environment, I am sure that you could find more than a few sources or opinions that unilaterally try to debunk that statement.

Paper-Stackl

However, it is accurate that paper printing and therefore the production of paper is better for the environment than not. For example, according to International Paper, “…when the demand for paper declines, tree farming also declines, taking all of the important ecological impacts like clean water and wildlife habitat right along with it” (“Down to Earth: A Practical Look at Environmental Issues and Trends”).

I know what you are thinking; ‘of course a paper company states that printing on paper is good for the environment.’ And, why wouldn’t they?

It is beneficial for their revenue, their bottom line, to convince folks that using paper saves trees. But, it’s true. Additionally, the benefits go far beyond the bottom line for paper companies. The once popular opinion that producing paper and therefore paper printing is bad for the environment is now a myth and research shows that this once common trend is outdated and erroneous.

Consider the amount of forestry land that has been lost due to development in the last 70 years, “The South has experienced an aggregate net loss of forest land of almost 14 million acres since 1963, a result of both urban expansion and some conversion of forests to agricultural land. On the Pacific coast, the reduction in forestland acreage since the 1960s represents 4.4 million acres” (“Loss of U.S. Forest Land”).

It is staggering to consider that had those landowners had options and alternate uses for the trees and land, then the forests and their natural habitat would not have been decimated for the sake of a shopping mall or new condo development. Consider the following; according to the Society of American Foresters (SAF), “Conversion of forestland to other land uses has many undesirable ecological, social, and economic consequences” (“Loss of U.S. Forest Land”).

Additionally, consider that “…the forest products industry plants more than 1.7 million trees per day… (and) by planting new seedlings, we help rid the atmosphere of carbon dioxide, and replace it with fresh oxygen. As young trees grow, they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. And as a wood-based product, paper continues to store carbon throughout its lifetime. Planting new trees can also combat global warming. For every ton of wood a forest produces, it removes 1.47 tons of CO2 from the air and replaces it with 1.07 ton of oxygen” (“Paper Because”). This further increases the environmental benefits of paper and paper printing.

Combine the environmental impact with the sustainability of growing trees for paper production, and you have a solid argument for why we should encourage forest product industries to continue to thrive and grow. Add to that the responsibility of the industry and their willingness to recycle, and it seems like an environmental and job-generating, win-win.

Lastly, according to ChoosePrint.org, “From sustainable forests to the renewable nature of trees and the recyclability of paper, the print and paper industries have a positive environmental story to tell—one in which print on paper and healthy forests thrive hand-in-hand.”

So, the next time you think twice about printing to paper, remember that a great deal of the bad rep that paper has gotten over the last thirty years is becoming part of an outdated and erroneous trend. Go ahead, print on some paper…I dare you…to save a forest and combat global warming!