The United States produces and uses a third of the world's paper. Forests in the southeastern U.S. now supply a quarter of the global supply of paper. The average U.S. citizen uses more than 650 pounds of paper annually. People in developing countries, in contrast, use only 40 pounds of paper a year on averagein India, the figure is nine pounds, while in 20 countries in Africa, it's less than one pound.
Making paper from trees has environmental cost. The pulp and paper industry is the world's fifth largest industrial consumer of energy and uses more water to produce a ton of product than any other industry. Producing one ton of paper requires two to three times its weight in trees. Newly cut trees account for 55 percent of the global paper supply, while 38 percent is from recycled wood-based paper, and the remaining seven percent comes from non-tree sources.
Making paper from recycled content rather than trees creates 74 percent less air pollution and 35 percent less water pollution. The amount of paper coming from recycled material has grown from 20 percent in 1921 to 38 percent today. We could do a lot better. If the entire U.S. catalog industry switched its publications to 10-percent recycled content paper, the savings in wood alone would be enough to build a 10-foot-high fence across the United States seven times. Here are some ideas:
- Use less paper: use the back side of paper, use washable dishes instead of paper, take a canvas bag to the grocery store, use a cloth instead of paper towels
- Print double-sided
- Recycle all your paper
- Buy only products that have high recycled content
- Ask companies to stop sending you catalogs and junk mail