The question of how to save the trees, and the recycling of paper is something everyone is well aware of. But what simple actions can we take to make a difference to the need to harvest so many trees? Can we make better choices in our day to day living and take small steps in a variety of ways to lessen the number of trees needed and therefore reduce the number cut down? If the majority of people were to do these actions there would be a larger scale impact.
Do We Absolutely Need To Cut Down Trees To Make Paper? I Think Not!
While there are many ways to work towards saving the trees idea, this article touches upon just one area. The trees that are cut down to meet the demand for paper. If we were to cut down our usage of paper and paper products, we could effectively reduce the number of trees required to be harvested and processed, and also reduce the carbon load on the environment because there would be less damage caused by manufacturing companies as well. I know it is not news to you about reducing paper usage, but I do feel we need to be reminded every now and then. Here is one just idea for the reduction of paper usage and also some ideas for other paper options!
A Tale Of Two Brothers!
I was reading recently about two brothers who recycle the same birthday card every year by sending it backwards and forwards to each other every birthday. It got me thinking. It is at least moving in the right direction in terms of a sustainable living plan. This isn’t completely keeping it green but at least it saves on the trees to make the cards that they would otherwise be buying for each other year after year. Plus there are ways to make the practice even greener if you so choose, which will be discussed shortly.
How Many Trees Are Cut Down Each Year For Paper Alone?
According to an article from www.ecology.com, about 4 billion trees are cut down each year to make paper for the world’s needs.
Why Do We Need So Much Paper?
It kind of makes you wonder why we even need so much paper (for communication reasons) these days. Many of us have access to computers, smart phones, tablets and other items that are all quite capable to write and send communications. Even some of the other uses, such as books, leaflets, information sources and even photographic paper, can be replaced digitally.
So Why Not Go Digital?
We have digital means to use as alternatives, in order to send eCards or computer generated designs to our family and friends or for business etc. Plus it is quick and easy to facilitate.
So why not do this more? Utilise our digital world to create interesting designs and greeting cards etc, to send to each other via cyber space rather than using paper products to serve the same function. You might try a free online source, such as Canva, to add a greeting to an image you already own, such as a personal photograph. Or you can find some images for free or purchase something specific to your needs. Perhaps scan some of your old cards and reuse them as a digitally made greeting card.
How Important, Truly Important, Is It To You To Receive A Physical Card In The Mail?
A large number of people already do this kind of thing, but an equally large number are still sticking to the old beliefs that a physical card shows the person that you care about them more effectively than a text message or email. I think the world is changing with regard to this, but maybe not quickly enough. I still like getting something in the mail, there’s a different feel to it, however, do we really need to have a physical item that most of the time ends up in our landfill or in the rubbish and only occasionally back in the recycling? Only about 35% of recycled paper is used to make new paper. Why not tell your family and friends to send digital greetings because you are trying to make a difference in the world? You may even start the whole family or friendship group on the same ideals.
How Can Two Brothers Make Such A Difference?
Forgive me for throwing in my favourite TV brothers, I couldn’t resist. Going back to the other brother story, I’ve never really sat down and thought about it this way before. When you consider this, if these two brothers began buying cards for each other from the ages of 16 and 18 and they lived until they were 88, that is the equivalent of buying cards for about 70 years.
There would be 2 birthdays per year plus Christmas cards (if they celebrate it), which means buying 4 cards per year every year for 70 years.
That equates to 280 cards in the lifetime of just 2 people, or 140 cards per person buying just 2 cards per year. Add in to this that there are usually more family members and friends to wish Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas to, so 2 cards per year per person does not give a true value to the number of cards bought per year per person, more like 20 or 30, even 40.
These estimates do not incorporate Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter if they are believers, or Anniversaries, Weddings, Engagements, Christenings, Births, Naming Days, Get Well Soon, Thank You, Sympathy, Blank cards or any other card or occasion you can think of that a card might be produced for.
How Does This Fare With The Rest Of The World?
For the sake of keeping things simple, let’s just keep it at 140 cards being bought per person in a lifetime. When you multiply this value by the world’s population, which is approximately 7.4 billion at last count, you are left with the amount of 1036 billion potential cards being bought over a 70 year span. Then think about this, if there are 4 billion trees cut down per year to meet the paper demand, then each year about half a tree is cut down to meet our own individual needs.
This doesn’t include the envelopes or the stamps. If we included these, it means that for every person in the world, assuming they all buy greeting cards merely for Birthdays and Christmas, there would also be 1036 billion envelopes needed to be accounted for and 1036 billion stamps added in to this equation. That’s a lot of trees to be cut down to meet the demand for the paper for just these particular cards, envelopes and stamps.
What Other Paper Products Do We Use?
Just as an example of how much paper we use and how many trees are required to satisfy the demand for paper in our current society, let’s take a look at some of the things we use paper for. Note books, checks, money, stamps, envelopes, copy paper, brochures, menus, paper napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, newspapers, books, magazines, business cards, receipts of purchases, scrapbooks, disposable party supplies, gift wrap, examinations, prescriptions, photographs, signage, advertisements, shopping bags, letters, bills, and these are just a few.
Some Statistics To Put Things In Perspective
The American Forest & Paper Association gives the following statistics on what just one tree is capable of producing, remembering that there are 4.7 billion people in the world and nearly all of them will be using a variety of paper products each day.
“An average tree can yield 61,370 No. 10 business envelopes”.
“One single tree can produce 2,700 copies of a daily newspaper”
“One tree can yield 4,384,000 commemorative-sized postage stamps”
“The average fully grown tree can produce 942 100 page books”.
“1,000-2,000 pounds of paper can be made from a fully grown tree”.
“The yield from an average tree can produce 1,200 copies of National Geographic”.
What About Hemp As A Permanent Alternative?
In the old days, paper was not made from cutting down trees, it was made from a mixture of reeds and other fibrous plants, even cloth, and sometimes animal skins. Later on, paper was produced from using mulberry bark and hemp plants and mixed with cotton or other linen. The fact that growing marijuana is illegal in many countries, effectively puts a stop to the production of paper using the hemp plant, however in recent times, more countries are beginning to legalise it so that it may well become more readily available to use in making paper and paper products.
Hemp Is So Versatile
Personally, I can see hemp plants becoming utilised in many industries as a very renewable and fast growing resource. It’s highly versatile potential may be the answer to many of our sustainable living dilemmas. More of this in later articles.
There are quite a few hemp products on the market already, including greeting cards, but if you prefer to create your own you can look into buying packs of hemp paper to create your own cards.
What Else Can We Do Or Use?
When we ask ourselves how to save the trees, we can see there are definitely options. If we truly wanted to cut down on the amount of paper being used, but still maintain a tradition such as sending a physical birthday card, it would stand to reason that we would recycle the envelopes used as well. In other words, the person receiving the card, when sending the card back to his brother, could also send back the envelope in which it arrived, making it reusable each time as well, and vice versa. The stamp would need to be repurchased each time and either steamed off, or placed over the previous stamp due to the cost of postage being taken into account. The only time they might need to buy another envelope is when one of the brothers moved, but stickers could just as easily cover the old address.
What Alternatives Are There To Paper?
Let’s go one step further in our brother’s story. What if their cards were not made from paper? Other alternatives to using paper would be to consider using another form of material to make a card. Perhaps using cloth of some kind to make a picture using dyes or paints, or even embroidery or tapestry or other stitching type style.
The image to the left is actually made from fabric and could quite easily be stiffened with starch and turned into a greeting card. Likewise, other fabrics would serve the same purpose.
Who Says A Card Needs To Be Flat?
Weaving is popular in countries such as Papua New Guinea, making 3D pictures from items such as shells and held together by gluing on to a hard surface could be used instead of paper. Etching and carving can look very impressive too and if you aren’t crafty, then there are plenty of people who are willing to produce pieces of art that could fill this need for the lesser creative beings in the world. Then do the same with it, send it back and forth like the brothers do. Or make something different each year.
Be Mindful Of How Simple Changes Can Be A Big Deal
If you want to start small in terms of living a sustainable life, think about how to save the trees. It should be one of the things you can easily make a change with. Even the small things can make a difference, just in the same way these two brothers have inspired me to do something similar, I hope that the have given you food for thought as well.
Please share with us in the comments below, what ways you contribute to saving the trees. How do you recycle paper or paper products? Is it something that you would find easy?
Thank you for reading.
Image of Supernatural brothers Sam and Dean Winchester used under the creative commons licence and attributed to Kristin Dos Santos. No changes were made to the image itself and it was then placed on a background with wording added.