Paper often gets a bad rap, but despite fears about paper’s impact on the environment, it’s actually a practical and sustainable choice for many parts of daily living. We’re learning more about the benefits of supplementing technology with print when it comes to education, estate planning and even celebrating life’s milestones. And thanks to our industry’s continuing focus on paper sustainability, our environmental footprint decreases every year.
We live in a world that is growing more conscious of the environmental effects of consumer choices. In the flurry of information about making sustainable choices, some myths about paper sustainability have proliferated.
It’s time to clear the air on five of the most persistent paper sustainability myths.
Myth 1: Cutting down trees to make paper destroys habitats.
Responsible forestry and a thriving forest products industry help sustain wildlife habitats. When landowners are able to make a living by successfully managing these natural resources, they are incentivized to keep forests as forests.
Sustainable forest management requires thinning tree stands to create open areas while maintaining older, denser canopies in other areas. Wildlife habitat diversity helps ensure ample food supply for wildlife and species’ ability to mate and thrive.
Myth 2: Paper production contributes to water pollution.
Nearly 90 percent of the water we use at our pulp and paper mills comes from local sources, such as nearby lakes and rivers. It’s the same water where we fish, swim and ski, so we want it to be safe and clean.
That’s why after we’ve used water, we treat it onsite and return almost 90 percent of it to its source, often cleaner than it was when we took it out. We will continue to improve our water conservation efforts, as this is an important part of paper sustainability.
Myth 3: Paper manufacturing is bad for the climate.
It takes energy to make the paper we use in thousands of everyday products. The good news is that much of that energy comes from renewable sources. In recent years, 75 percent of the energy used in Domtar pulp and paper mills has come from renewable, carbon-neutral biomass sources; it’s largely generated from wood processing and pulping byproducts.
Also, since 2010, Domtar has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions at pulp and paper mills by 18 percent. We’re working hard to not only set but also to raise the environmental standard for the paper industry.
Myth 4: Electronic communications are more sustainable than paper communications.
Worldwide, billions of smartphones, computers and other connected devices are used every day. Making these devices requires fossil fuels, chemicals, water and precious or rare-earth minerals, as well as other components that are detrimental to the environment, such as lead, arsenic and mercury.
While sustainability-minded consumers often focus on the environmental effects of paper production, they should also understand the facts about electronic communication before declaring it a better choice. The updated report “Print and Paper Myths and Facts” by Two Sides North America offers important data about e-waste, chemical use and greenhouse gas emissions that result from computer and smartphone manufacturing. This data includes the environmental effects of e-mail, texting, social media and other electronic communications.
Myth 5: People don’t recycle paper.
Americans are doing a better job recycling paper than ever before. Paper recovery rates in the United States reached an all-time high of 68 percent in 2018. Recycling paper not only keeps the material out of landfills but also prevents methane, a greenhouse gas, from forming when paper and other organic materials decompose.
Thanks to paper recycling, Domtar’s book paper has a very long shelf life — quite literally. We also make stationery and copy paper that, after it serves its initial purpose, comes back for encore performances as paper bags, birthday cards, gift boxes, egg cartons or, eventually, toilet tissue.