Skip to content

This Tree Hugger Tuesday… is for the trees.

October 2, 2012

This month’s Tree Hugger Tuesday is about just that – TREES! Aren’t trees awesome? Around my neck of the woods (heh heh), they’re even changing colors this time of year!

And yet…

How much paper do you think you use on a regular basis? How many of those nice, crisp printer packets do you open a month? Well, over 90% of that paper comes from those awesome trees – most often harvested in unsustainable ways – and accounts for 40% of our wood pulp production.

In the US, we consume 30% of the world’s paper – yet we have less than 5% of the world’s population (I know I know – we’re good at taking more than our fair share of a lot of things, aren’t we).  On average, we print out 28 pages of paper a day! 28 pages! In addition, the average American receives 41 pounds of unwanted junk mail each year. At work, we’re just as bad. In an average office, you use 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year, too. In general, in the US we throw away 4 million tons of office paper every year.

All that paper is pretty costly: Globally, we produce over 300 million tons of paper each year – and that costs over 300 million forested acres. It also uses huge amounts of chemicals, pesticides, energy and water. For each ton of paper towels we make, we cut down 17 trees and use 20,000 gallons of water. In addition, recycling, while a step in the right direction, also uses energy and water, as well as bleaching agents that are often environmentally harmful.

It’s more costly to the pocketbook, too. Using paper products costs you money every time you buy them – only to throw them away. And it’s not just you – it’s your work, too. Companies don’t just purchase paper, they also spend money to ship, store, copy, print, post, and dispose of that paper – all at increased costs.

So. What can you do? There are a lot of ways you can cut down your use, therefore saving trees, energy, and water – and reducing waste!

  1. Reduce Junk Mail: Sometimes, we use up paper we don’t even want. The United States, about 68 million trees are cut down a year to produce 17 billion catalogs and 65 billion pieces of direct mail. The direct mail aside, if you’re like me, that damn junk mail  goes right back in the recycling bin. End that cycle! There are plenty of ways to stop that junk mail from even arriving. There are free services to help you, including Catalogue Choices and DMAChoice. You do have to tell these sites which companies to stop, the choices alone can make your head spin/drive this point home. I recommend checking the companies on the junk you received first, so you know which ones to search for.
  2. Promote a “think before you copy or print” attitude: Preview and proofread documents before printing. Try to rely on digital copies. At work, look to see if you can only print some pages versus an entire report, and consider sharing some documents with co-workers. Print only the number of copies needed for the meeting, don’t make extra.
  3. Use double-sided printing and copying whenever possible. Increasing double-sided printing and copying by not even 50% could save 15 million trees.
  4. Re-use one-sided documents as scrap paper: Look at the paper ou do throw away. More than likely, it has an entire side you didn’t use. Start taking advantage of that space before tossing it. You can even take a cue from a friend of mine: Cut paper into quarters and staple to create new notepads – save cost of buying those, too!
  5. As I’ve mentioned before, cut down on other paper products. Use cloth towels, napkins, handkerchiefs, etc – both at home and bring them with you. Never use paper plates. If you must, then only buy those that explicitly state “made from 100% recycled paper.” Seventh Generation is a pretty safe brand to go with.
  6. Switch to electronic bills, statements and payments: You could save 6.6 pounds of paper, 63 galloons of water and 4.5 gallons of gasoline, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 171 pounds, annually by stopping paper statements and checks.
  7. Use digital avenues for collaboration at work, instead of printing and circulating paper. Sending documents with Track Changes via e-mail, using Google Docs, etc. Share using thumb drives instead of paper trails.
  8. Recycle: Do this at home, and encourage your workplace to recycle paper, too. But remember, recycling also uses energy and chemicals, so you should reduce and reuse first.
  9. Use recycled paper or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) paper: Every ton of recycled paper used saves about 17 trees, and uses 60% less energy than creating new paper.

So. That’s just a few things you can do to help save the trees. Of course, keep in mind that these Tree Hugger posts are meant to provide some ideas on how to change little things in your life that could make a difference – but that it’s ok if you can’t do everything. I run off the philosophy that we do as much as we can, and allow for the things we have trouble with. It’s like buying carbon credits for the airplane flight you want to take.

For instance, I may do all of the above but… additional things that save paper are using e-cards instead of printed ones (10,000 trees are cut down in China alone for holiday cards, and if we all sent one less holiday card, we’d save over 50,000 yards-cubed of paper), and using an E-reader instead of buying books, magazines, or newspapers (we print over 2 billion books, 359 million magazines and 24 billion newspapers in the US a year). Buuuuuttt… For me? There’s just something about a getting a card in the mail, and I looooovveeeee books. I love them. Physical books I can hold in my hand, with pages I can dog-ear. I don’t really want to give up either of these things. So I buy cards printed locally on recycled paper, and I try to always shop at local book stores, so I’m supporting my community, and I don’t throw books away.

So figure out which ones work for you. Take some of these recommendations. Take all of them. Do something – and save some trees! in addition to energy and water, and you’ll produce less waste, and leave more trees to help clean up greenhouse gases. Reducing paper use can not only reducing waste, use, and energy by creating and throwing away less paper, but can also reduce greenhouse gases by making sure there are more trees on the planet. More trees absorb more carbon, a greenhouse gas.

Not enough for ya? Then remember your pocket book: you can save money, too, simply by buying and using less. Don’t take my word for it – check these big company examples: By increasing the use of online forms and reports, e-mail, double-sided copying, and lighter-weight paper, Bank of America decreased paper consumption by 25% in two years, and saved more than $1 million a year. Citigroup found it could save $70,000 a year if employees used double-sided copying to save just one sheet of paper a week.

There ya have it. This Tree Hugger Tuesday, give back to the trees!

Some resources:

Blog Her ~ “Reducing Your Paper Trail” ~ “Become a paper-less office”

Vision of Earth ~ “31 Ways to Reduce Paper Use”

Peoria ~ “Reducing Paper Use Saves Money… and Maybe Even the Planet”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 2, 2012 1:52 pm

    All hail the paperless office! Having THE slowest printer in the world (the warm-up period alone makes you re-think any printing) helps as well.

    Personally I get annoyed when I get paper statements from the bank or actual bills. I much prefer having them online and try to convert as much as I can. Not only is it better for the environment, it also saves space.

    I like trees and like to keep them where they are – looking beautiful against the skyline. The change of colours this time of year is fab!

  2. November 22, 2012 2:09 am

    I LOVE this and I’m so glad to see you back! I print everything to One Note, which I LOVE LOVE LOVE! And when I leave home, I only have to take my laptop with me and I have more than everything I need!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: