Known as the world’s largest environmental movement, Earth Day is just around the corner. And while the 2018 Earth Day theme is End Plastic Pollution, a central focus continues to be combatting deforestation.
Although 48 years have passed since the first Earth Day, unfortunately many people’s assumptions of the pulp and paper industry’s role in causing deforestation have not. While most still believe that using paper directly contributes to deforestation, this is not the case – particularly true in North America, where the number of trees is actually increasing.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines deforestation as the conversion of forests to another land use or a permanent loss of forest cover. That means that formerly-forested land must fundamentally change its use – not just temporarily be void of trees after a harvest.
So although deforestation isn’t an issue in North America, the rapid loss of tree cover is an issue in other parts of the world. And it turns out that many drivers – including some you may not suspect – contribute to the problem:
According to the Rainforest Alliance, agriculture drives 80 percent of tropical deforestation. One of the biggest reasons is the world’s insatiable demand for palm oil, which can be found in everything from chocolate to cookies to ice cream. Sounds like the “go green, go paperless” claim should be changed to “go green, skip dessert!”
The United Nations agrees that agriculture remains the most significant driver of global deforestation, which also refers to the raising of livestock. In fact, extensive cattle ranching accounts for 80% of current deforestation in many South American countries.
Closer to home, we know that pulp and paper production isn’t a risk to keeping forests standing, but development is. According to the U.S. Forest Service, about 6,000 acres open space are lost to development each day – that’s a rate of 4 acres per minute! Furthermore, the agency estimates that 44 million acres of private forest lands could experience sizeable increases in housing density by 2030.
What Can You do?
We all have a role in putting an end to deforestation. Here’s three simple steps you can take this Earth Day:
- First, feel good knowing that responsibly-sourced North American paper products such as EarthChoice® Office Paper, Cougar® and Husky® Digital don’t contribute to widespread deforestation. But the same cannot be said for all paper-producing regions of the world, so take the proper steps to know where your paper comes from.
- Recycle your paper after use, which reduces pressure on forests by extending the life of the wood fiber used to make it. You can keep this virtuous circle going by purchasing products like Cougar® and EarthChoice30® Recycled Office Paper, which are manufactured with recycled content.
- Finally, have a greater awareness of the everyday items you buy which contain palm oil. The concept of forest certification, which assures that forest will remain forests, has been around for over 20 years. Luckily, initiatives like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil are beginning to take hold, ensuring products that use this ingredient minimize negative impacts on the environment.
- The Paper Trail: “Farm-to-Table” for Your Paper
- 3 Reasons Why Forest Certification Is Good Business
- Forest Certification 101