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Some experts argue that the paper industry’s role in global and local environmental problems exceeds any other industry. The U.S. alone consumes more than 100 million tons of paper per year. The paper industry is the 3rd largest producer of greenhouse gases and the greatest commercial user of water per pound of product according to the findings of the Environmental Paper Network, or EPN. Ground water pollution, loss of biodiversity and forest depletion from the paper industry are other well-known concerns. One organization working on solutions to these problems is Conservatree, and Executive Director, Susan Kinsell, a renowned expert on environmental paper, sums up the purpose behind her groups efforts:
Kinsell: Conservatree is a nonprofit organization and…we provide as much information as we can…about environmental papers…to do the legwork for people.
Conservatree is actively involved with the EPN, a team of organizations helping transform paper production and consumption:
Kinsell: We have worked with all the environmental groups in North America that are working on environmental paper issues and brought them together into a Common Vision working towards common goals…in concert with each other’s programs. We’re expanding that out and, now, working on organizing groups in Europe and…other parts of the world as well.
Another EPN member, Coop America, widely disburses information on the subject and is aggressively promoting sustainable options. Frank Locantore, Director of the Wood Wise program, elaborates:
Locantore: Coop America uses economic strategies to create a more just and socially responsible and environmentally sustainable world. By helping conscientious consumers connect with the conscientious businesses, people are able to support their values with their pocketbook….Now, the Wood Wise program follows that same basic idea…and we have produced Wood Wise Consumer Guides that help to educate consumers about the issues surrounding our forests and why are they being depleted and destroyed and how as consumers they can make wise purchases…purchasing wood and lumber that has been certified as being harvested sustainably through the Forest Stewardship Council…and how purchasing recycled paper is much better for the environment and why people should be using as much post-consumer recycled paper as possible.
Wood Wise’s Magazine Paper Project has successfully challenged about 70 magazine publishers to choose environmentally preferable paper. Locantore explains why this is important:
Locantore: Magazine publishers purchase huge sums of paper… For instance, National Geographic…, they’ll purchase 20 to 30,000 tons of paper every year in order to produce their various magazines; so, with that type of scale, it’s very critical that magazines begin to wean themselves off of the virgin fiber, or from exclusively using virgin fiber for paper production.
But why the focus on recycled paper? Kinsell offers the stats:
Kinsell: If you use a ton of recycled paper…instead of paper that had been made directly from trees, then you save 24 trees to begin with, but it’s much more than trees …With that ton of recycled paper, you save over 44% of the energy that would have been used otherwise, you reduce air pollution by up to 41%…you reduce water use by nearly half and you cut solid waste in half too. So there’s a lot of benefit to…using what we already have and recycling that back into some of the new paper as well.
We’re interested to hear about some simple, pragmatic steps that average consumers can take.
Kinsell: I think the most important approach is to build on what’s practical. The most common types of environmental papers available are recycled papers: They’re easy to find, they’re very competitively priced, people should be buying them no matter what…Recycled paper is the basis for environmental papers….No matter what kind of paper you’re buying and no matter what it’s made from, it’s going to reach the end of its life, and rather than just dumping it and wasting it, it’s important to bring that back into the system, make new paper out of it, save those resources.
For more information on Earth friendly paper options and wood-based paper alternatives, please visit our website @ gooddirtradio.org.
I’m Tom Bartels and I’m Tami Graham. Thanks for joining us on Good Dirt Radio…digging up good news…for a change.