Paper and Environmental Impact

Posted by on Feb 9, 2016 in Ecofriendly Printing, Paper Types
The pulp and paper industry's practices such as reforestation and caring for existing trees ensure healthy, sustainable forests.

The pulp and paper industry’s practices such as reforestation and caring for existing trees ensure healthy, sustainable forests. (Photo by Antonio Bovino)

Printing on paper can be controversial. Consider how many times you’ve received an email that said, “Think twice before printing this email.” Luckily the paper industry has long taken great care to be responsible in replenishing paper sources. There are nearly 750 million acres of forests in the United States, about 30 percent of the country’s area, and there are more trees in the U.S. today than there were 70 years ago.

There are misconceptions that paper production can be wasteful or that it depletes our forests, but in reality, the pulp and paper industry have systems in place to manage wood supply, just as any consumable industry would maintain and cultivate its raw materials.

And conservation groups know this, too. Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace, said that forestry is the most sustainable of all the primary industries that provide us with energy and materials.

It starts with how paper is made. Entire trees are not used to make paper. According to the Technological Association of Pulp and Paper Industry (TAPPI), about two-thirds of the raw material used to make paper in the U.S. comes from recovered paper and wood waste (such as sawdust and wood chips) left behind from lumber manufacturing, and one-third is from “round wood,” or what the industry calls the wood harvested from whole trees. It’s not economical to use the same trees used for large lumber to make paper, so typically trees smaller than 8 inches in diameter, or larger trees that are deemed not suitable for lumber manufacturing get harvested for pulp and paper manufacturing. This ensures that entire trees and whole forests are never harvested at the same time for paper.

Next, the U.S. has forests dedicated for industrial use, and has tried and true methods for maintaining them. A common myth is that the paper industry contributes to deforestation, which is actually a misinterpretation of the term. Deforestation refers to the permanent removal of trees with the intent of repurposing the land (such as for farmland or urban development). In reality, total tree removal would serve to diminish paper production altogether.

Paper companies have operated for well over a century by making sure their production plants match the available wood supply, according to Depleting the supply area as quick as they can wouldn’t make sense, as there would be no more raw materials from which to make their products.

The forest products industry replenishes the forests, too. Replanting, caring for existing trees, and creating new forest land all contribute to reforestation. In fact, four million trees are planted daily in the U.S., about 1.5 billion trees each year. TAPPI reports the annual net growth of U.S. forests is 36% higher than the volume of annual tree removals.

Since 1900, the U.S. forest area has remained at 750 million acres, give or take 5 percent. The lowest coverage of forest area was 735 million acres in 1920. In 2000, about 749 million acres were recorded, according to the National Report on Forest Resources. With growing demand for paper products for your marketing and communication needs, it’s important to have all the facts about the responsible practices that the pulp and paper industry take to ensure a healthy and sustainable industrial forest, and in turn, paper industry.

Even though the paper industry is taking good steps to be responsible, there is more work to be done to ensure these best practices are passed on and improved on. At Chicago Print Partners, we offer several sustainable paper options from domestic sources as well as recycled paper options. Please contact us to learn more about them. Let’s help keep our forests beautiful!


  1. Bill Urban
    February 9, 2016

    This is great to hear!


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