Correcting Common Myths about Printing Paper and Deforestation

A recent Two Sides North America survey showed that 48% of Americans believe paper is bad for the environment, and 60% believe U.S. forests are shrinking. That’s not true.

In honor of International Print Day (October 20, 2021), we compiled some facts that print buyers should know about the relationship between printing paper use and deforestation.

North American forests are a renewable resource and are not shrinking. U.S. forest area grew by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, and net forest area in Canada remained stable at 857 million acres during the same period. This finding was reported in the 2020 Global Forest Resources Assessment conducted by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Using paper for printing and packaging does not contribute to deforestation. According to the FAO report, the greatest forest loss occurs in regions of the world that use the least wood.

Demand for sustainably produced paper products provides a strong financial incentive for private forest landowners to manage their land responsibly and keep it forested rather than selling or converting it for non-forest uses.(U.S. Forest Service, 2019).

A 2019 U.S. Forest Service report noted that tree harvesting in the U.S. occurs on less than 2% of forestland each year. This is less than the nearly 3% of forest trees that are disturbed annually by natural events such as insects, disease and fire.

About 89% of wood harvested in the U.S. comes from privately owned forests which provide most of the wood for domestically produced wood and paper products. (U.S. Forest Service, 2019).

U.S. and Canadian paper and paper-based packaging companies are instrumental in achieving sustainable forestry objectives. Sustainable forestry is a comprehensive, science-based approach to protecting and conserving this vital natural resource.

The U.S. Forest Service defines sustainable forestry as meeting the forest resources needs and values of the present without compromising the similar capability of future generations. Sustainable forestry is a land stewardship ethic. It integrates growing, harvesting and regenerating trees for useful products with the protection and conservation of soil, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and biodiversity. Sustainable forestry also takes into account how the forest contributes to global carbon cycles, aesthetics, and long-term social and economic benefits.

Certification organizations such as the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative rigorously audit forestry practices. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) independently certify to paper consumers that the products they use come from responsibly managed forests.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, more than half of the world’s certified forests are in North America.

About Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America is an independent, non-profit organization that works to dispel common misperceptions about paper and printing. Through fact sheets and other educational materials, they inform businesses and consumers about the sustainability, versatility, and attractiveness of print, paper and paper-based packaging.

The Two Sides global network includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Member companies span the Graphic Communications and Paper-based Packaging value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, paper-based packaging, and related fields.

For more facts about the sustainability of paper and paper-based packaging, visit: https:/twosidesna.org

RECOMMENDED READING

How Do We End the Myths About Paper Use and Forests? Everybody has a Part to Play! – Two Sides North America (twosidesna.org)

Organizations that Promote Sustainability in Printing and Packaging

To learn more about sustainability efforts within the printing and packaging industry, the resources listed below can give you a good start.

sustainability resources for printing and packaging

The Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP)

SGP’s vision to create a true circular economy within the print supply chain. SGP is the print industry’s catalyst to increase business opportunities among brands committed to a sustainable supply chain and grow profits by reducing resource consumption and waste.

SGP provides print buyers with transparent, measurable assurance that SGP-certified facilities will help print buyers meet and exceed sustainability goals.

To become SGP-certified, each SGP printer must commit to:

  • Reduce waste and hazardous materials
  • Conserve energy
  • Source sustainable materials
  • Lower its carbon footprint
  • Create a safer workplace
  • Conform to all relevant environmental health, safety, and labor labs
  • Adopt a third-party recertification audit every two years
  • Undergo a third-party recertification audit every two years.

For information about SGP visit: https://sgppartnership.org/

For information about SGP certification: http://sgppartnership.org/certification/

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) is a membership-based collaborative that believes industry can make packaging more sustainable. The SPC brings together businesses, educational institutions, and government agencies to collectively broaden the understanding of packaging sustainability and develop meaningful improvements for packaging solutions.

The SPC has developed tools, applications, and services to help companies take meaningful action toward packaging sustainability.

For example, the SPC has produced a series of online courses on “The Essentials of Sustainable Packaging

Earlier this year, they published a 59-page report: “Understanding the Role of Compostable Packaging in North America.”

More info: sustainablepackaging.org/

Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America is an independent, non-profit organization that uses a straightforward, balanced approach to tell the sustainability story of print, paper and paper-based packaging. Two Sides tackles relevant environmental issues head-on with factual, authoritative information that exposes myths and explains the industry’s true sustainability.

Two Sides North America Fact Sheet
Two Sides North America publishes Fact Sheets such as this one about Paper Production and Sustainable Forestry.

Member companies span the Graphic Communications and Paper-based Packaging value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, paper-based packaging, chemicals and inks, pre-press, press, finishing, printing, publishing, envelopes and postal operations.

The goal is to gives stakeholders a solid foundation for making well-informed decisions about the use of print and paper products.

For example, Two Sides publishes fact sheets that bust myths such as:

Myth: Going Paperless Saves Forests

Fact Sheet: Paper Recovery and Recycling

Fact Sheet: Wood-Based and Alternative Fiber-Based Papers

Myth: Paper is a Wasteful Product

For more information: https://twosidesna.org/

The Sustainability Consortium (TSC)

The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) is a global non-profit organization working to transform the consumer goods industry by partnering with leading companies to define, develop, and deliver more sustainable products.

TSC translates the science of sustainability into quantifiable metrics and practical tools for buyers and suppliers to address sustainability issues in their supply chains.  Their product sustainability toolkits enable product buyers to:

  • Compare who leads and lags in sustainability performance
  • Identify suppliers with advanced sustainability practices
  • Reveal opportunities for market advantages
  • Reduce supplier survey fatigue
  • Identify and manage high risk suppliers

The Paper, Pulp and Forestry (PPF) Sector Working Group of the TSC investigates sustainability issues for a wide-variety of forestry products, including books, greeting cards, facial tissue, lumber, and engineered wood products. The working group includes industry experts and representatives of non-profit organizations, and academic/research institutions.

The work of the PPF Sector is being used to develop Product Sustainability Toolkits for paper-based packaging.

For more information: https://www.sustainabilityconsortium.org/