March 21 marks the International Day of Forests with 2018 focusing on Forests and Sustainable Cities. Trees in urban areas, natural forests and plantations, store carbon and release oxygen which helps mitigate the impacts of climate change. They also filter and regulate water, protect wetlands and watersheds, and prevent floods by storing water in their branches, roots and soil.
“In South Africa, and many countries around the world, virgin paper is made from farmed trees, just as grain is farmed for food. Yet people often don’t make this connection when they think of paper and wood products.”
Molony explains that there is a long-held notion that paper kills trees. Harvesting is often misconstrued as deforestation but nothing could be further from the truth. “Wood and paper products are, in fact, as renewable as you can get, and by choosing responsibly sourced paper for communication and packaging, we’re actually helping the environment, not hurting it.”
Choosing to use paper also sustains around 150,000 jobs in the forest-paper value chain.
Farming trees to make paper products
“In South Africa, only 6% of the total number of plantation trees is harvested each year. This area is then replanted with new saplings. More than 840 million trees are grown over 693,000 ha specifically grown for use in pulp and paper making,” says Molony.
It is for this reason that using the catchphrase of ‘saving trees’ in promoting ‘paperless’ methods is a fallacy. Electronic forms of communication are very much a part of our world, as is the 2000-year old technology that we use to transform our report drafts or manuscripts for first novels into ‘hard copy’.
“We certainly do not advocate the printing of every email – but we do encourage people to print things that they need to view regularly. Repeatedly viewing the same documents on screen uses energy – and unless your computer is powered by solar energy, this will add to your carbon footprint, Molony explains.
It is also important to use virgin paper when printing documents – recycled copy paper is not made in South Africa and would need to be imported. This will add to your carbon footprint. “Buy local!” urges Molony.
Remember this the next time you use any paper product
“Paper is more than copy paper. It is the recycled paper box that gets your online shopping order safely to your door. It’s the box of cereal, the label on the coffee jar, the bag of sugar and the milk carton,” Molony notes.
“It is toilet paper and tissue, as well as the unplugged pleasure offered by printed books and magazines.”
Paper – both virgin and recycled – is very much part of everything we do. And that’s a good thing. Especially for trees. Especially for our climate and the vision for a low carbon world.
“Protecting trees of various kinds is vital – not only for our cities, but for industry and everyday life. If it wasn’t for commercially grown trees planted by the forest products sector, indigenous forests would have been eradicated to meet mankind’s fibre, fuel and furniture needs.”
Remember this the next time you use paper – which could be in the next few minutes.