Does Going Paperless Really Save Trees?

Posted April 21, 2016 in Pulp and Paper Industry by Elizabeth Tischer

There is a modern green trend known as going paperless. The belief is that this will reduce the number of trees that are cut down. The truth is that you might not actually be saving very many trees. Perhaps most surprising is that the paper industry isn’t behind the study. Instead, the graphic industry has stepped in to show that for forestry paperless offices don’t really have much benefit.

Paper is perhaps the most obvious product that is created from forests. This is one of the problems that we find when we have a broad understanding. Despite the belief for there to be a benefit to forestry paperless offices are required in every industry. After all, the entire tree goes into making paper right? The truth is, only the waste that is produced by mills goes into the making of paper. A log’s waste when it is becoming lumber is turned into pulp that goes on to become paper.

This means that even if we remove all the paper that is found in the paper industry, we are still harvesting about the same number of trees. The reason is that many of the foresters go out of their way to maximize the use of the trees they cut down. That means things like wood chips for the fire, lumber for your home, and even the plywood floors you are walking on are all made from lumber. Those same pieces of lumber had their waste turned to pulp and trees. Meaning that when companies are going paperless to become green, the residual tree waste still needs to be used to make something.

Also important to remember is the companies harvesting trees are not cutting down trees and leaving barren land. Instead, they are replanting the trees and ensuring these trees also have the ability to mature. This prevents overconsumption and it ensures that there are plenty of trees that remain for future generations also. There is a desire to create a stable, and reusable section of forest that continues to meet the needs of the industry.

Many of the woods also produce more wood than is consumed in a year. When the wood is harvested, it is required to meet the specifications of local sawmills that won’t touch smaller trees. So young trees are not being harvested to make paper. Many are trees that are older in age and present a risk.

If the harvesting of trees were to be outlawed, and we had no paper produced by the paper industry, there would be long term effects felt. Schools wouldn’t have the resources for all students to learn when there is no way to access the internet. There would be no physical legal documentation of items that can help law enforcement. The American economy would also take a blow forcing thousands out of their jobs and causing a massive depression.

Forests need to be thinned out to prevent wildfires from running rampant. More permanent damage is caused to forests by these fires, then is caused by the paper industry.

So the next time someone tells you that going paperless is the only way to save our forests, just smile. You can tell them that the forests in the United States more than grow double what is used in a single year.  

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