Paper reduction and sourcing
Recently published statistics suggest that the international paper production industry has a carbon footprint around three times that of the much-criticised aviation industry, yet our love affair with the printed page shows little sign of abating. According to research, Europeans use around 4 times the global average annual paper consumption at over 200kg per person, while the Energy Star organisation tells us that ten times as much energy is consumed in the production of a sheet of paper as is used in printing on it. So how should an organisation go about reducing paper consumption, and how should it source the paper it does consume?
The paperless office has not yet become a reality, but the way we use paper has changed. Before the internet, paper was the primary method of communicating ideas and storing information but now that we share and store information digitally documents are often printed simply because it's more comfortable to read them that way. Old habits can be hard to break, but there are some ways of reducing paper consumption even if people prefer hard copy, for example by setting devices to print double sided or n-up as default and buying lighter weight paper. There are ideas for reducing paper consumption in the Top ten tips section.
Manufacturing recycled paper is as energy- and water-intensive as virgin paper, although it does reduce the use of trees. However, properly managed softwood forests for the paper and pulp industry provide a valuable carbon sink and can be readily replenished as they are relatively fast-growing. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies paper from well-managed forests and most sources agree that using virgin paper products from non FSC-certified sources should be avoided.