Have you ever been perplexed about paper’s eco image? Although vast amounts of water and harmful chemicals are used in paper production, it’s often associated with eco-lifestyle products and marketed as a natural alternative to plastics. Organic foods in the best independent shops come hand-wrapped in paper and are carried out in paper carriers, which somewhat inconsistently manage to elude the negative press associated with fellow disposable variety, the plastic bag.
Paper’s benignant image is a consequence of it being made from trees. Trees are renewable, natural, and absorb CO2. Yet paper production and relatively efficient paper recycling must undergo polluting industrial processes before it is transformed into the familiar products that pervade modern lives.
It is said that each person in the UK consumes twelve trees’ worth of paper each year. As paper is abundant and cheap we are able to consume it unthinkingly. Dissociated from the environmental impact of the paper in our normal lives, the industrial processes involved in its production and printing isn’t something we pause to consider. Regularly exposed to messages about how green and easy it is to recycle, and aware that recycling paper saves money and energy, we obligingly do our bit.
Despite improved recycling rates, 35% of landfilled waste is paper. Paper – a supposedly cheap and abundant resource – is contributing greatly to accrued landfill charges which increase year-on-year. Therefore for economic as well as environmental reasons, individuals can make a difference by reducing personal paper consumption foremost and reusing waste paper thereafter.
In time through making incremental changes to one’s lifestyle it is possible to dramatically reduce the amount of paper consumed, and to totally eliminate the use of virgin paper. Many people become interested in reducing their reliance on paper because they don’t have the storage space to physically keep paper records, while technologically savvy paper-freers like Paper Nomad have no need for hardcopy documents because electronic alternatives exist.
There can be no doubt that paper is a versatile, tactile, even beautiful resource. But it is over-used and we have become over-reliant on it. The pace of change is slow; people are wary of internet banking which is perceived as less secure than poorly shredded bank statements and lost post. Too many businesses refuse to accept electronic signatures on documents. Companies (or perhaps their customers) are slow in making the switch to email marketing and shopping, which would help save millions of tons of paper at a click of a button.
To lead a paper-free life you will need to retrain yourself. It means absolutely not using virgin paper for hastily scrawled notes. It means treating virgin paper as a prized commodity that is used sparingly and infrequently. It will also mean refusing to buy things on account of virgin paper packaging. Wholeheartedly, it also requires adopting electronic and technological alternatives.
Is a paper-free life possible? Can it help make a difference?
No related posts.