Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day 86 of our Green Year: The Plain Truth About Paper

Every single day, we all use paper. It may be reading the newspaper, reading a book, writing something down or cleaning up after Fido. That paper, unless recycled or manufactured in a way that is sustainable, can cause large problems for the environment.

Living in Canada, Layla and I are lucky. We are able to work out on our deck, surrounded by tall trees and the environment. Trees are everywhere I look, and the air smells sweet thanks to them. However, recently I read a story on that stated the two biggest offenders in the world for the destruction of forests and pollution from pulp mills, are the two countries with 50 percent of the world's forests; Canada and Russia.

This really bothered us because we always take pride in the fact that we are Canadian. We feel that as Canadians, we see the environment all around us. However to find out that we are the worst in the world for protecting our forests, well that hurts our Canadian pride deeply. On the news we hear a lot about China's environmental record, but in many ways they are starting to outstrip Canada in terms of protecting the environment and its forests. In fact, China is the best in terms of preserving forests. Studies have shown that 90 percent, yes 90 percent, of the logging in Canada is done in old growth forests. These are forests that are literally hundreds, if not thousands of years old. On top of that, some of the worst cases for paper mill pollution are found in Canada.

It is not all bad of course, Canada did publish all of its Harry Potter books on recycled paper. While that is a lot of books, it does not make what Canada is doing right. As well, one thing we try to do here at Our Green Year is educate people, so here is some 'fun' facts about paper and how it is used, or misused, on Earth.

  • Half of the forests on the earth have been burned or cleared, and 80 percent of what is left is seriously degraded.
  • 42 percent of the wood harvest is used to make paper.
  • The paper industry is the fourth largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions
  • One-quarter of the waste in the landfills of North America is paper.
  • If the United States cut its paper use by only 10 percent, it would prevent 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases from going into the atmosphere. That is like taking 280,000 cars off the road.
  • Recycled paper uses 44 percent less energy, produces 38 percent less emissions, 50 percent less waste water, 49 percent less solid waste and 100 percent less wood. Sadly, only 48.3 percent of all paper is recycled
Obviously there is a problem.

So, for our 86th day of Our Green Year, Layla and I are being paper-conscious.

  • When we receive an e-mail, or have something on the computer (other than stories that need to be sent by snail mail), we will not be printing anything off.
  • All the paper we will be buying, from toilet paper to writing pads will be recycled.
  • We already recycle all the paper we can, and we will continue to do that.
  • We will make our own birthday and Christmas cards, while reusing envelopes as well.
  • We will read magazines and news online, not buying them, unless they are from recycled paper.
  • We will write small on our paper pads and we will use both sides.
Also, Layla and I plan on writing a book about our experience with Our Green Year following this (any agents or publishers reading this?...) and we plan to publish with recycled paper as well.
I encourage everyone to check out one of the best sites I have found on the internet, and one of our Green Friends; Eco-Libris. They plant a tree for every book that you read and they should be commended for what they are doing. We need more companies like them.

Yesterday, when we did our TV interview, we were asked if we felt we were making a difference. I have thought about this and I hope we are. I hope that the people who read this are learning about the environment and learning that going green can be a small step (changing lightbulbs) or a big step (recycling everything and being zero-impact). I hope everyone who reads our blogs enjoys them and becomes educated from them about the world around us. We are on day 86 and still have about 250 days left, which is about nine months. There is still a long way to go, and Layla and I appreciate everyone who comes to our site to read our journey.