Sustainable Forest Management: The Front Line on Climate Change

Why the Paper We Use is Part of the Solution

Climate Change – as evidenced by fluctuating temperatures and precipitation patterns around the globe – is a reality.  There’s no doubt that increasing levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere are having an impact.  The good news is that we still have time to change direction.  One of the most effective ways we can achieve that outcome is by advocating for the increased use of sustainable forest industry products that store carbon and limit GHG emissions.

March 21st marked the sixth year of the UN’s International Day of Forests with the 2017 theme: Forests and Energy.  Its emphasis is on the world’s forests as a key source of renewable energy, offering us the opportunity to affect climate change.  Wood fuel currently provides 40% of today’s renewable energy supply – as much as solar, hydroelectric and wind power combined.  And the potential to mitigate climate change is even higher, since the world’s forests hold an energy content that’s approximately 10 times that of our annual energy consumption. That’s more than enough to meet the world’s demand for renewable energy.

More than half the wood produced in the world is used by 2.4 billion people worldwide to create energy for use in cooking, boiling water and heating.  In North America, where 7.9 million people rely on wood fuel in place of fossil fuel, the emphasis has been on sustainable forest management and renewable energy practice in the paper industry to reduce GHGs and their impact on the environment.

The paper EarthColor uses to create your print communications has a very low carbon footprint.  Most of it is FSC-certified paper with some recycled content; some of it is produced using alternative sources, such as agricultural waste.

What gives paper a low carbon footprint?  Two-thirds of the energy used by North American pulp and paper mills is made from self-generated, renewable, carbon-neutral biomass in combined heat and power (CHP) systems.  Paper is made from a renewable resource (trees) that store carbon.  It is then manufactured using renewable energy, and at the end of its life cycle, it can be recycled.

When you look at the life cycle of paper, its carbon footprint has three elements: greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), carbon sequestration and avoided emissions.  Some of the benefits derived from these elements are summarized below.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • The global print and paper industry accounts for only 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Pulp and paper mills in the U.S. have reduced the emission rate in tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent per ton of products by 55.8% since 1972, 23.1% since 2000, and 39% compared to 2010.
  • Increasing recovery and recycling of office paper and catalogs, effectively reducing their carbon footprint by 15-20%.
  • Eliminating this paper from landfill and using them as a source of biomass for energy products, further reducing their global warming impact.

Carbon Sequestration.

  • The net GHG balance of managed forest land in Canada was equivalent to 162 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in 2013.
  • In the long term, sustainable forest management will generate the largest sustained climate change mitigation benefit.
  • In the U.S. alone, sustainably managed forestry practices in one-quarter of private timberland will result in 60 million tons of forest carbon sequestration.
  • Globally, GHG emissions for the forest products industry value chain are offset by sequestration in forests and forest products.

Avoided Emissions

  • Paper and paperboard recovery at about 43 million tons resulted in a reduction of 149 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2013. That’s the equivalent of removing 31 million cars from roads for one year.
  • Burning biomass returns carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, the equivalent to the amount absorbed by trees as they grow – making it carbon neutral.
  • Forest biomass derived energy could reduce global emissions by between 400 million and 4.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year.
  • Paper and wood product mils use biomass residuals (waste wood) from manufacturing to produce bio energy an provide significant GHG reducing benefits. That’s the equivalent of removing 35 million cars from the road.

To learn more about the International Day of Forests program, check out the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website.

Contact us to see how we can partner together to maximize the sustainability benefits of your print communication.

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