Can Using Paper Help Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?

Many of my customers are very aware of how their decisions impact the environment. By and large they try to do the best they can with respect to their client’s budget and sustainability initiatives. One area that has yet to be fully incorporated into many companies overall environmental efforts is that of reducing one’s carbon footprint. Simply put your carbon footprint is the amount of CO2 your activities generate. Here are some steps to help you reduce your carbon footprint and understand how paper fits into the cycle.

The reality of it is that in order to reduce our global carbon footprint we need to reduce emissions, promote carbon storage or sequestration and when possible avoid emissions altogether. Our planet has a fixed amount of carbon, but its form is constantly changing. We all know when a tree undergoes photosynthesis, it absorbs CO2, when it dies the carbon in it is transferred from the forest to the soil and back into the air as CO2. When a company uses energy to manufacture a product, let’s say paper, they emit carbon into the atmosphere.

For people, direct emissions come from sources like the cars we drive. Indirect emissions come from the power plant that supplies the electricity we use. So when we look at things like paper, it can have a pretty big impact from a direct and indirect emissions stand. The paper industry has made huge strides to reduce their carbon emissions; they are constantly undergoing efficiency improvements like using combined heat and power technology which reduces CO2 emissions by generating that fuel from a single source. Many are using the waste material from trees for energy, this is biomass. With biomass because the emissions are coming from a renewable energy source they are carbon neutral, basically the carbon that is removed from the atmosphere by the tree growth is equal to the carbon used during energy production. In addition to biomass there is also wind, solar and low impact hydro-electric alternative forms of energy used in paper manufacturing. If your unsure if the paper you’re using is made with alternative energy, check the swatch book or ask your rep.

Carbon is stored in many places, one of them is in forests. Since the amount of carbon on the planet is constant, when there is more carbon sequestered in long term “sinks” like a forest, the less that is going out into the atmosphere. Forests supply both the raw materials and the energy needed to make paper. Well managed forests are a renewable resource that supplies balance to the carbon cycle by securing CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering it. One acre of young, healthy trees will produce 4,280 lbs. of oxygen and capture 5,880 lbs. of CO2 each year. To know if your paper comes from a well managed forest, look for independent, third party chain of custody certifications like FSC, SFI, or PEFC.

You can make an impact on our global carbon footprint, you just need to know what to look for.

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