Paper. It's extremely useful, but did you know it's complex too? Probably not it's paper. Not something we really think about on a daily basis. However, there's so much more that goes into this handy dandy source of writing, painting and scribbling material than you would think as well as its impact on our environment. You read that right. PAPER IMPACTS THE ENVIRONMENT. And no, I don't just mean we are losing valuable trees in deforestation, I mean carbon emissions and global warming. Yeah think about that when you buy your next notebook.
Paper is created by connected fibers, usually a mix of wood pulp, bleach and occasionally a mixture of dyes, chalk, clay, titanium oxide, rosin, gum, and starch. That's a lot of stuff in that 1mm thick sheet. The mixture goes through a squeezing and beating process, gets fed into big machines that feed out long rolls and then finally flattened into thin paper sheets. The sheets are then coated in a mixture of chemicals to fill in any space left between the fibers. That’s a lot of time, energy and resources going into an object we’ve used every single day for over 3000 years. It’s especially surprising considering the process has actually increased in complexity since humans first pulped paper fibre together.
As we can see from the process above a lot of energy and machines go into the paper making process. This is disregarding the issue of deforestation, which is a well-known problem within the paper industry. According to Greenpeace over 4 billion trees are cut down every year, which equates to 1% of the Amazon rainforest. This might not seem like a lot, but 1% over the thousands of years humanity has used paper, and it’ll add up to a shit tonne. It’s important to note the contribution the paper industry has to carbon emissions increasing in the atmosphere. Cutting down trees alone contributes to 30% of carbon emissions in our atmosphere, and that's not including the manufacturing process itself. No wonder we’re in a global warming crisis.
Now all those scary facts have been thrown at you let's throw some positive ones your way. Your involvement in these environmental issues can be lessened by switching to recycled paper. Recycled paper uses 26% less energy to produce. To put that in perspective, if we used the amount of energy which was saved in this instance, it would power 216, 000 homes for an entire year. It also saves 43% more water and produces 73% less air pollution than the manufacturing process of virgin paper. There are many ways to become more environmentally conscious and starting is as easy as becoming aware of what paper and products you buy.
This isn't to say that recycled paper is perfect. Given the nature of tree fibre, it can only be recycled about 5-7 times before before the fibres become too short and can no longer retain form. And depending on the manufacturers, can also have toxic chemicals added to it as a whitener. However, you can compost most paper fibre that has come to its end, and as long as you find a company that is producing recycled paper without harsh chemicals, going recycled is certainly a more sustainable option to go with.
Madison Pollard Designs
Madison Pollard Designs is an ethical and sustainable brand, dedicated to protecting our planet by creating artworks using 100% recycled paper. When you buy a print form Madison you know you are not only receiving a beautiful piece of art, but that you are contributing to the circular environment. This ensures that individuals are making use of already present materials in our economy, creating a circular manufacturing process of make > use > reuse/recycle > repeat (as opposed to the linear idea of make > use > dispose). Check out more environmental info here.
So next time you use up a notebook, or reach for a new stack of printing paper, think to yourself of the impact on the environment you are creating from your choices. By making the easy switch to recycled paper you are saving the trees, energy and the environment.
Written by Francesca Teresa
Edited by Madison Pollard
Francesca Teresa is a Sydney based lifestyle blogger with a background in marketing and social media. She’s loves sharing her insights and thoughts on topics from mental health, baking, beauty and fitness, environmentalism and navigating the world in your 20s. Check out more of her work here.