Will paper kill the papers?

I keep waiting for the Greeniacs to wake up and discover that they’re probably tearing down more trees through reading than they are by planting through companies that promise to make you carbon neutral. When I was in London, I saw the green squad attacking travel editors for recommending trips on planes. Now Roy Greenslade points to a campaign to show how damaging free papers are to the environment. And why stop at free papers, by the way? Why not those thick Sunday numbers, too? And magazines? And mail? And books?

Project Freesheet decries the growth of free newspapers as an ecological no-no. And Jon Hughes of Ecologist Online wants them banned. In the battle of free speech vs. trees, trees win in his book (uh, an electronic, paperless book, that is).

Hughes provides these numbers for London’s freesheets alone:

Look at the ballpark figures behind the 1.5 million daily papers put out by the current four. It takes 12 established trees to make one tonne of newsprint, which is enough to print 14,000 editions of an average-size tabloid. That means a daily usage of newsprint of a little over 107 tonnes. Which, in turn, means the felling of 1,284 trees.

Why stop there? How much newsprint do all the newpapers in the world use? According to this Berkeley site, 37.8 million tons in 2001. At 12 trees per ton, that’s 453 million trees.

Save the trees! Save the planet! Stop reading!

On t-shirts and bumperstickers near you, soon.

(By the way, is anybody auditing these companies to confirm just how many trees they do plant?)

  • Canada, the US and parts of Scandinavia do plant more trees than they harvest, but this is somewhat misleading.

    Forests have been replaced by tree farms. These are areas where there are only one or two species planted. The competing natural species are eliminated and in some cases it is necessary to fertilize artificially since the natural balance has been disturbed. The areas are all planted at the same time, mature at the same time and are clear cut. Then the stumps are removed and the cycle is repeated.

    It’s all very efficient if you ignore the loss of diversity and wildlife.

    I really resent that I have to toss out large sections of the Sunday NY Times which contain material I’m not interested in. No matter how glossy and eye catching the fashion supplements are I’m still not in the market for women’s clothing.

    A real ebook reader would go a long way to reducing the demand for printed material. How do you do the crossword, though?

  • “Only after the last tree has been cut down…the last river has been poisoned…the last fish caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.” Cree Indian Prophesy.

    “All truth passes through three stages:
    First, it is ridiculed;
    Second, it is violently opposed; and
    Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”
    — Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

    For Robert Feinman: Ever see those interactive forms on web pages, where you fill in the slots with your personal data for registering, ordering or taking a survey? You can apply the same technology to crosswords.

  • An audit conducted by the publishers of the Daily Mirror in the UK found that each copy of that newspaper causes the release of 174g of CO2, much of which is accounted for by paper production.

    The same study showed that the glossy paper used in magazines makes the figure even higher for them.

    That said, I think it’s no longer credible to joke about the environmental impact of dead tree editions without also talking about the growing energy consumption of the servers and PCs that power the Internet.

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  • Hartwell

    What about Durabooks instead of paper — made of a synthetic resin — http://www.melcher.com/frameset.html

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  • It is important to make a distinction between the newspapers (and other paper products) we pay for, and the ones that are being handed out for free on the streets. A free paper is designed as a 20 minute read. Therefore it has no retention value and is discarded on public transport systems, ending up as waste destined for landfill. When you purchase a paper not only are you undergoing a kind of onwership on that product, you are also more likely to take it home and recycle it.

    The biggest issue with paper usage today is how much of it is being recycled. Paper that goes to landfill represents a resource wasted, and is also contributing to climate warming.

  • hmmm, my trackback isn’t taking. i blogged on this today:


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  • http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070507/thompson_moles

    On a practical level, while the money raised by offsets can be useful, new doubts are emerging about the industry’s basic accounting. A December 2006 survey of the offset business, compiled by a team of specialists in the field, criticized the majority of the companies hawking the product. “There are no widely accepted standards…as to what qualifies as an ‘offset’ for purposes of making consumers carbon neutral,” notes the report, titled A Consumer’s Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers. “Almost anyone can offer to sell you almost anything and claim that this purchase will make you carbon neutral.” Commissioned by Clean Air-Cool Planet, the study looked at thirty firms and gave the majority of them poor marks.

    Whatever their intentions, these companies operate in an accountability vacuum…

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  • If more people chose to read the daily newspaper electronically it would make an enormous difference. Many are available on-line. Reading your next book electronically could save many more trees. You may be interested in Read An E-Book Week. This year it runs from March 9-15th, 2008.


  • i think the newspaper and all the stuff made of trees will kill the planet and not help our mother earth to be a beautiful place for us to live in.

  • Uncle B

    Hemp, the annually renewable fiber and oil crop that can solve some of the oil crisis and some of the deforestation crisis is still held back by 1930s cotton baron laws. Here in the 21st century, a simple lab test will show exactly what one is growing, making the ‘dope’ argument as obsolete as the people who espoused it!
    P.S. China knows this and grows hemp to its obvious advantage! America update your laws or learn to speak Chinese!