Last week, as I stood in line at Kinkos, I overheard someone say that buying recycled paper isn't necessary because paper today comes from young trees grown on farms, and thus no forests and mature trees are sacrificed. It's at times like these that I wish I were bold enough to tap people on the shoulder and correct them on the spot. Or maybe that's not bold...maybe that's rude. Well, I'm neither bold nor rude, so I stood there silent, but knowing two things. First, this guy had gotten some bad information, and second, I had the topic for my next blog.

The suggestion that the cultivation of tree farms is saving our heritage forests is false. Tree farms are often created on deforested land! Land that has been cleared and replaced by a mono-crop has none of the properties or benefits of a diverse, fully functioning forest. Even if a tree farm's existence did not come at the expense of a healthy, thriving forest; the land, water and energy used, and pollution created, to produce paper from farmed-raised trees is not--I repeat not--on par with utilizing post consumer recycled content for paper production in economic or ecological terms. Consider the following facts:

    - Producing paper from recycled material uses less water and energy and produces less pollution than producing paper from trees.

    - Post consumer recyclable material is extremely abundant and available--it doesn't have to be planted, watered, fertilized or harvested. It only has to be collected and transported. And on the subject of transportation, recyclable material is lighter to transport. You need only one ton of recycled material to make one ton of recycled content paper, whereas you will need 3.5 tons of trees to make one ton of tree paper.

    - Neglecting to support recycled products jeopardizes recycling itself. In order for the paper that North Americans consume and throw away to be sufficiently diverted from landfills and into recycling programs, consumers must close the loop on recycling--meaning they must buy back the material in its second generation.

Paper cannot be recycled forever. Eventually the fibers wear out, so virgin sources (trees) will always be a part of overall paper production, but when recycled paper is available, it is the environmentally preferable choice.

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