Cutting Your Paper Footprint

cutting paper footprint photo

Cutting your carbon footprint is one thing, but cutting your paper footprint is a whole other game. As a vivid demonstration of how much paper we use, Mandy Haggith collected and displayed the 250kg of paper that the people in her small Scottish town had thrown away over the past year. In response to this paper mountain, a series of recycling initiatives were started in the town involving students, shop keepers and residents.

Haggith is a long-time forest campaigner and in preparation for her book, Paper Trails she travelled around most of the great forests of the world. What she found is profoundly disturbing--ancient forests being stripped to nothing by huge multi-nationals--all to feed the UK's need for 12.5 million tons of paper per year. She found that Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand had terrible devastation but that China and Finland had very good forest preservation. Russia and Canada are the worst offenders--they also have the most wood--50% of the world's forests. She said that "it was Canada that depressed me the most, Canada is incredibly wealthy, yet 90 per cent of its logging is from old growth forests and its pollution record is horrific. It has some of the worst cases of paper mill pollution I found."

ancient forests destroyed for paper photo

However there is some hope: Canada did publish its Harry Potter books on recycled paper, and then two British publishers followed suit. The UK's newspaper industry has now agreed to raise its recycled paper content to 70 per cent. The European Environmental Paper Network has launched a new website, Shrink, to encourage people to make a pledge to cut their paper usage and take greater action. It contains some fascinating tips on how to save paper at work and in the home.

How to save the trees:

* Do not pick up paper napkins in cafés.

* Ask yourself: do I need to print this? If so, use both sides of the paper.

* Make sure any paper you buy (toilet rolls through to writing paper) comes from recycled sources.

* Re-use paper bags or compost receipts and torn-up bank statements

* Cut down on and share magazines, return unwanted catalogues to the sender.

* Re-use envelopes and make your own cards.

* Read small print carefully and never tick the "more information" box.

* Ask your boss to buy recycled paper for your workplace.

:: The Independent
More on Saving Paper
:: Cutting Your Toilet Paper
:: Making Your Office a Greener Place