Certification 101 – Part 2: Sustainable Fiber Sourcing Standards

You may be familiar with forest management certification, the voluntary process in which an independent, accredited third-party auditor conducts an onsite assessment of forestland to determine the quality of forest management against established standards such as those developed by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®), Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification™ (PEFC™). Perhaps less familiar, but far more prevalent, is fiber sourcing certification.

Around 90% of all forestland globally is not certified. For North American paper manufacturers who do not own their own forestland, this means they need a way to document that the wood they buy from non-certified forests is sourced responsibly. Certifying their wood and fiber procurement operations to a sustainable sourcing standard provides strong, proven mechanisms that enable responsible sourcing.

The American Forest and Paper Association reports that of the total wood fiber from forests used for products, its members procure more than 99% through a certified fiber sourcing program.

SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard

The SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard is among the most rigorous of these standards. It holds individual mills and manufacturers, who bear all the costs to certify, accountable for promoting responsible forestry, which reduces the financial burden on small family forest owners. SFI‑certified organizations must show that the raw material in their supply chain comes from legal and responsible sources, whether the forests are certified or not.

But the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard requires certified paper manufacturers to go far beyond simply avoiding the purchase of wood or fiber from illegal or otherwise “controversial” sources. The performance-based standard requires manufacturers to take proactive steps with their third-party suppliers, including forestland owners and loggers from whom they source wood, to help ensure environmentally sound harvesting. The standard sets mandatory forestry best management practices (BMPs) for the responsible procurement of all fiber sourced directly from the forest. Among others, these BMPs include requirements to advance the protection of water and soil quality, conserve biodiversity and forests with exceptional conservation value, and protect at-risk species.

In addition, certified manufacturers are required to invest in forestry research and technology, and to develop monitoring systems to evaluate and verify the use of BMPs in their supply chains. Demonstrating the impact of the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard on BMP implementation, a 2018 report titled “Implementation of Forestry Best Management Practices” by the Southern Group of State Foresters1 put the BMP implementation rate in the region at nearly 94%, up from 87% in 2008.

Certified manufacturers must also participate in the development and implementation of professional logger training programs, and require that loggers supplying wood to them be trained. A very strong system of logger training programs exists today across U.S. states and Canadian provinces, and this is a direct result of implementation of the SFI Fiber Sourcing standard. Through these programs, more than 221,000 professional loggers have been trained since 1995 to ensure understanding of biodiversity, water and soil quality and other sustainable forestry requirements.

Much of the wood used by U.S. and Canadian paper manufacturers comes from small, family forests that are not certified to a forest management standard. Another critical element of the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard requires certified manufacturers to develop and provide outreach to these small family forest owners. This includes information and educational materials that encourage, among other things, reforestation after harvesting and forest productivity measures that protect against damage from wildfire, pests, disease and invasive species.

In order for a paper manufacturer to be certified, all SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard requirements must be independently audited by a competent and accredited third-party certification body. And, just as there are on-product labels to convey that fiber is sourced from certified forestland, SFI has a distinct label to denote fiber that is sourced responsibly under its Fiber Sourcing Standard. The SFI Certified Sourcing label tells consumers that fiber comes from a company that is certified to the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard, from recycled content, or from a certified forest.

The SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard applies to manufacturers in the United States and Canada that procure wood domestically or globally. When SFI-certified organizations source fiber from jurisdictions outside North America that may lack effective laws, they must complete a risk assessment to assure their fiber sourcing programs support principles of sustainable forestry, promote conservation of biodiversity, thwart illegal logging, avoid controversial sources and encourage socially sound practices. Despite the very low risk of illegal logging in the United States and Canada, the marketplace has increasingly demanded risk assessments across the entire supply chain. The SFI 2022 Fiber Sourcing Standard requires certified organizations to assess the risk of illegal logging regardless of the country or region of origin.

For more detailed information about the SFI Fiber Sourcing Standard, click here.

FSC Controlled Wood Standard

The Forest Stewardship Council allows paper manufacturers to mix FSC-certified fiber with non-certified fiber in FSC-labeled products under controlled conditions. The non-certified material subject to these controlled conditions is referred to as “controlled wood.”

The FSC Controlled Wood Standard requires certificate holders that use controlled wood to mitigate the risk of using wood products from undesirable sources in FSC-labeled products. Mitigation must be implemented when the risk of sourcing from the following types of forests is greater than “low” as determined by an FSC risk assessment:

  • Illegally harvested forests;
  • Forests that were harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights;
  • Forests where High Conservation Values are threatened by management activities;
  • Natural forests that were converted to non-forest uses; and
  • Forests with genetically modified trees.

The FSC US National Risk Assessment (US NRA) must be used by all companies that wish to control uncertified forest materials from the conterminous United States so that the materials may be mixed with FSC-certified materials and used in products that carry the FSC Mix label.  Similarly, the FSC Canadian National Risk Assessment (FSC-NRA-CA) must be used by companies that wish to control uncertified forest materials from Canada.

For more information on the FSC Controlled Wood Standard, click here.

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1   AL, AR, KY, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, FL, GA and VA.

The Circularity of Paper: Recycling Closes the Circle

Over the last three decades, the U.S. paper industry’s deep-rooted commitment and voluntary investment of billions of dollars in recycling infrastructure have transformed the circularity of paper products from vision to reality – something no other industry has been able to achieve. At a time when there’s growing alarm about the low recycled rates of other materials, paper recycling is a clear exception.

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Paper or Digital Communication: New Two Sides Survey Shows U.S. Consumers Want the Right to Choose

DAYTON, OHIO – August 16, 2023 –  In an attempt to reduce costs, many banks, utilities, insurers and other service providers are switching consumers from paper to electronic bills and statements, often without their consent, and some are now charging fees to receive paper statements. Others are urging their customers to switch from paper to digital communication because it’s “green” or “better for the environment.” But a recent survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by international research firm Toluna found that consumers want the freedom to choose how they receive important communications from the companies they do business with.

The Right to Choose

The Two Sides survey showed that 81% of U.S. consumers believe they should have the right to choose how they receive important communications from their service providers, on paper or electronically, and 73% believe they should not be charged more for choosing a paper bill or statement.  These percentages increased from 2021 by 78% and 67%, respectively.

While using the internet can be a quick and convenient way to transact business, companies that default customers to electronic communication put at risk many Americans who do not have broadband access, cannot afford it or have difficulty using the internet. Particularly at risk are people in rural areas, older people and those living on low incomes. According to a 2021 study by data technology company BroadbandNow, some 42 million Americans do not have broadband internet access. The Pew Research Center reports that 25% of people over age 65 never go online. A 2023 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), states that nearly a third of Americans who don’t have broadband say the reason is because they can’t afford it.

Companies that force consumers to go paperless also face risks of their own. Nearly 46% of consumers said they would consider switching to an alternate provider if their current one forced them to go paperless, up from 41% in 2021.

Digital Communication is Not Always Preferred

The survey showed that 65% of consumers are increasingly concerned that their personal information held electronically is at risk of being hacked, stolen, lost or damaged, up from 64% in 2021. Those over age 65 are most concerned (74%), but 46% of those aged 18 to 24 have the same worry.

Internet use is practical and convenient for many, but electronic communication also comes with undeniable challenges, including issues associated with overuse. The survey revealed that American consumers believe “switching off” is more important than ever, with 59% saying they spend too much time on digital devices, up from 51% in 2021. 53% of consumers are concerned that the overuse of electronic devices could be damaging to their health, causing issues such as eye strain, headaches and sleep deprivation, up from 51% in 2021.

Which is better, Print on Paper or Digital Communication?

“The simple answer is that both print and digital communication have important uses and benefits that consumers value,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “The question should not be which one is better, but which is best suited for each individual’s needs. It’s vitally important that all consumers have the right to choose how they receive important communications from their service providers – free of charge – to assure that those who are unwilling or unable to access the internet are not disadvantaged.”

The Facts About Greenwashing

It has become commonplace for companies to encourage their customers to switch to from paper to electronic bills and statements with misleading claims that going paperless is “green.” These types of broad, unsubstantiated environmental claims, known as greenwashing, are not only misleading, but also fail to comply with established environmental marketing standards such as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Guides for Environmental Marketing Claims and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14021 standard.

“Statements like ‘Go Green, Go Paperless’ are not backed by sound science and fail to recognize the vast and growing negative environmental impacts of electronic communication,” Rowzie says. “These misleading claims damage consumers’ perceptions of paper and put at risk the livelihoods of more than 7 million people in the U.S. print, paper and mail sector.”

Two Sides continues to successfully challenge major corporations and other large organizations to eliminate misleading environmental claims about paper products from their customer communications. For more information about the Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign, visit www.twosidesna.org/anti-greenwash-campaign/.

 The 2023 Two Sides Trend Tracker Survey queried 1,000 respondents over age 18 across the United States. It is the second of Two Sides’ biennial trend tracker studies designed to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products.

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About Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is part of the non-profit Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our mission is to dispel common environmental misconceptions and to inspire and inform businesses and consumers with engaging, factual information about the inherent environmental sustainability and enduring value of print, paper and paper-based packaging.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

90 Million More Consumers Now Safeguarded from Anti-Paper Greenwashing

Two Sides North America Anti-Greenwashing Campaign Persuades 21 Leading Companies to Remove Unsubstantiated Environmental Claims in 1H23

Since its inception, the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign has eliminated literally billions of instances of paper-related greenwashing in the United States and Canada, and its engagement with large utilities, banks, insurers and other organizations during the first half of 2023 has added to this success.

During the first six months of 2023, 21 additional companies representing approximately 90 million customers have removed greenwashing messages such as “Go green, Go paperless” and  “Go paperless to help protect the environment” from their marketing communications.

“In addition to misleading consumers, these types of unsubstantiated environmental claims pose a serious threat to the economic security of the more than 7 million people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy North American paper, printing and mailing sector,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “Our recent research found that 65% of consumers who’ve seen anti-paper greenwashing are influenced to go paperless.”

That same research found that the Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has preserved more than $300 million in annual revenue for the paper, printing and mailing sector over the last decade.

Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims in a non-confrontational way, educating CEOs and other senior management with facts from credible, third-party sources that clearly demonstrate the unique sustainability characteristics of paper products and the solid and continually improving environmental record of the North American paper industry.

“Paper is one of the few products on earth that already has an environmentally sustainable, circular life cycle,” Rowzie says. “North American paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and regrown in sustainably managed forests. It’s manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon neutral bioenergy in a process that uses water, but in reality consumes very little of it. And paper products are recycled more than any other material in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because corporations and other organizations they trust are telling them so. The Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign is working hard to change that.”

You can help Two Sides in the fight to eliminate anti-paper greenwashing and protect North American jobs. If you see instances of greenwashing, please email them as a PDF, JPG file or link to info@twosidesna.org.

For more facts about the sustainability of print and paper products, please visit www.twosidesna.org/mythsandfacts.

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Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

E: info@twosidesna.org

P: 937-999-7729

 

 

The Importance of Paper in Learning and Literacy

Over the last two decades, technology has become part of almost every facet of our lives. The expansion of broadband, smartphones and portable technology has changed how we communicate, access information, work and learn.

While many of these changes are positive, there is growing evidence that this isn’t always the case. In recent years, there has been a gradual shift away from paper-based learning materials in schools toward digital and online tools. This shift accelerated rapidly during the pandemic when almost all schools moved lessons online. Research has shown that this increasing reliance on digital methods and resources may be negatively affecting the ability of students to learn and remember information. There is also growing concern about the impact of digital technology on mental and physical health.

Digital Vs. Paper-Based Materials: Learning

A 2018 meta analysis examined 54 studies involving more than 171,000 readers that compared reading from digital text with reading from printed text. The analysis found that comprehension was better overall when people read printed as opposed to digital texts.

Similarly, a study involving millions of high school students in the 36 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that those who use computers heavily at school “do a lot worse in most learning outcomes, even after accounting for social background and student demographics.” Another analysis revealed that fourth-grade students (approximately 9 to 10 years old) “who used tablets in all or almost all their classes had, on average, reading scores 14 points lower than those who never used them—a differential equivalent to an entire grade level.”

Patricia Alexander, a psychologist at the University of Maryland who studies how we learn, discovered that although students think they learn more reading online, tests show that they actually learn less than when reading print. Part of the problem can be attributed to the speed with which we typically read text on a screen, much of which is easy-to-understand text messages or social-media posts. When it comes to reading more complex information on screen, which requires more attention and thought, people still tend to scan it rather than read it properly.

As well as encouraging us to read quickly, reading online usually involves scrolling, which can make it hard for the brain to create mental maps that help us to remember. When reading a printed book, for example, it’s easy to know roughly which page you’re on, but that’s far more difficult when scrolling through text on a screen.  A 2019 study revealed that it’s not just when scrolling that the brain struggles to make mental maps. When a group of 50 participants was asked to read a 28-page story, half of them read a printed version and the other half read the story on an e-reader. Those reading the printed version understood the chronology of the plot better than those reading the digital version. The researchers suggest that “the haptic and tactile feedback of an e-reader does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print book does.”

The benefits of paper-based learning materials aren’t restricted to reading; writing on paper rather than typing on a keyboard can also produce better results. A 2014 study compared the outcome of students taking lecture notes by hand with those who took notes on a laptop. When it came to testing the students on their knowledge of the information, they were allowed to review their notes for 10 minutes before the test. Those who took longhand notes performed better on both factual and conceptual questions.

The authors of the study concluded that “laptop use can negatively affect performance on educational assessments, even — or perhaps especially — when the computer is used for its intended function of easier note taking. For that reason, laptop use in classrooms should be viewed with a healthy dose of caution; despite their growing popularity, laptops may be doing more harm in classrooms than good.”

Perhaps one of the most noticeable differences between reading printed matter compared to reading on a screen is distraction. When reading from a screen, we’re more often than not connected to other services, which bring with them pop-ups and pings from social media, emails and text messages, all of which divert our attention and break concentration. Even in schools, depending on the school’s policy, this can be an issue, particularly when tech-savvy students know how to bypass firewalls and other restrictions.

Digital Vs. Paper-Based Materials: Mental and Physical Health

There is growing concern about the impact of digital devices on mental health, including increased rates of anxiety and depression. With devices now being used by students in school as well as outside the classroom, there is little respite from the constant stimulation they deliver. Paper-based learning materials, in addition to providing cognitive benefits, also provide a much-needed break from the digital world.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington found that students who used paper-based planners were less likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression than those who used digital planners. Published in 2017, the study involved 264 undergraduate students who were randomly assigned to use either a paper-based planner or a digital planner. The researchers found that the students who used the paper-based planner reported lower levels of anxiety and depression than those who used the digital planner.

The negative effect of digital devices isn’t limited to their use during the day. The blue light these devices emit also affects how well we sleep. A study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that those who read from a tablet took longer to fall asleep, had less REM sleep, and felt less rested in the morning than those who read from a paper book.

Poor sleep quality can bring with it a range of negative health consequences. In addition to the effect poor sleep has on mental well-being, it also increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Conclusion

Compared to centuries of paper use, digital and online educational tools are very much in their infancy, with much research still to be done on their impacts. A growing body of research suggests that a switch to electronic learning materials from paper-based materials may be detrimental to students’ ability to learn and remember information, as well as to their overall health and well-being.  With healthy, well-educated students as the ultimate goal, perhaps we should slow or even pause the shift to digital materials in schools until we more fully understand their effects on learning and literacy.

 

Survey Shows U.S. Consumers Believe Paper-based Packaging is Better for the Environment than Other Packaging Materials

DAYTON, Ohio, June 26, 2023 –  If you recently made a purchase online, you’re not alone. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that retail e-commerce sales topped $272 billion in the first quarter of 2023, up 7.8% from the same period last year. Along with this continuing growth in online purchases comes an increasing  awareness of the materials used to package and ship products, and the impact these materials have on the environment. A new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by international research firm Toluna found that U.S. consumers believe paper-based packaging is better for the environment than other packaging materials.

Paper: The preferred and sustainable packaging choice

Survey respondents were asked to rank their preferred packaging material (paper/cardboard, plastic, glass and metal) based on 15 environmental, aesthetic and practical attributes. Overall, paper/cardboard packaging was preferred for 10 of the 15 attributes, including all environmental attributes, with half of respondents saying paper/cardboard is better for the environment than other types of packaging. Consumers also preferred paper/cardboard packaging for being home compostable (59%) and easier to recycle (43%).

Glass packaging was preferred by consumers for four practical and aesthetic attributes, including being reusable (39%), having a preferred look and feel (39%), providing a better image for the brand (38%) and better protection (35%). 45% preferred metal packaging for being strong and robust. Plastic packaging was not preferred for any of the 15 attributes, and only one in 10 respondents believes plastic packaging is better for the environment.

Consumers demand that brands and retailers do more

Brands and retailers play a crucial role in driving innovation and the use of recyclable packaging. In response to increasing consumer pressure to operate more sustainably, brands and retailers in many sectors, from wine, spirits and soft drinks to candy, cosmetics and apparel are shifting from plastic to paper packaging.

The survey found that 55% of consumers would buy more from brands and retailers who remove plastic from their packaging, up from 49% in 2021. 50% said they are actively taking steps to increase their use of paper packaging, up from 41% over the past two years. 47% said they would consider avoiding a retailer that is not actively trying to reduce their use of non-recyclable packaging, up from 39% in 2021.

“As the call for circular product life cycles grows louder, paper has always had a head start,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “The paper industry’s longstanding and continuing investment in recycling infrastructure, support of community recycling programs and consumer education on what and how to recycle have transformed the circularity of paper-based packaging from vision to reality. At a time when there is growing alarm about the low recycled rates of other packaging materials, paper recycling is a striking exception.”

68% of paper and paper-based packaging in the United States gets recovered and recycled into new products, and that jumps to more than 91% for corrugated cardboard. In comparison, the U.S. Environmental Protection reports that plastics, glass and metals are recycled at just 9%, 25% and 34%, respectively.

The 2023 Two Sides Trend Tracker Survey queried 1,000 respondents over age 18 across the United States. It is the second of Two Sides’ biennial trend tracker studies designed to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products.

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Download the press release here.

About Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is part of the non-profit Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our mission is to dispel common environmental misconceptions and to inspire and inform businesses and consumers with engaging, factual information about the inherent environmental sustainability and enduring value of print, paper and paper-based packaging.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

 

The Circularity of Paper: Inside the Paper Mill

We know the circular life cycle of North American paper products begins as wood from sustainably managed forests where trees are purpose-grown, harvested and regrown in perpetuity.  But once that wood reaches a pulp and paper mill, how does the manufacturing process contribute to circularity and minimize environmental impacts of paper products?

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Two Sides North America Survey: U.S. Consumers’ Preference for Print Media Shows Post-pandemic Gains

DAYTON, Ohio – June 1, 2023 – Print media saw significant disruption during the coronavirus pandemic as many people moved online for news and information, but consumers’ preference for receiving and reading print on paper has rebounded over the past two years. This according to a new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by global research firm Toluna.

“Some observers predicted that people who switched from paper to digital media during the pandemic would never return, but this has not been the case,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “Across every category of media included in the survey, from books and magazines to newspapers and product catalogs, consumers’ preference for paper has increased since 2021.”

The 2023 Two Sides Trend Tracker Survey asked consumers how they prefer to receive and read various types of media – on paper, mobile/tablet, e-reader (e.g., Kindle), laptop/desktop or no preference. Results showed an increase from 2021 in the preference for paper over digital communication in the following categories.

Books:                        50% prefer paper, up from 44%

Magazines:                47% prefer paper, up from 38%

Newspapers:             34% prefer paper, up from 29%

Catalogs:                   30% prefer paper, up from 22%

As might be expected, the survey showed that younger adults, those age 18 to 24 in particular, prefer to receive and read all types of media online. But even among these younger consumers, more than three in 10 prefer to read books and magazines in print.

The survey also revealed interesting trends over the last two years in consumer attitudes and habits related to how they consume news.

In 2021, 58% of consumers said they intended to read more news online in the future, but this number dropped to 53% in this year’s survey. Nearly six in 10 consumers (58%) said they would be concerned if printed newspapers were to disappear, up from 49% two years ago. More than half of consumers (51%) said they get a better understanding the story when reading news in print versus online, up from 44%. And more than four in 10 (43%) said they trust news stories in print rather than online, up from 34%.

“Print and digital media are often compared as an either/or proposition to suggest one is better than the other,” Rowzie says, “but our research clearly shows that consumers value both. Rather than adopting a one-size-fits all digital communications strategy, savvy publishers, retailers and other businesses will continue to offer consumers a choice. In doing so, they will not only satisfy consumers who prefer print on paper, but also will assure that those with no or limited access to digital information – older Americans, those with disabilities, low-income individuals and many in rural areas – are not disadvantaged.”

The 2023 Two Sides Trend Tracker Survey queried 1,000 respondents over age 18 across the United States. It is the second of Two Sides’ biennial trend tracker studies designed to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products.

Download the press release here.

About Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is part of the non-profit Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our mission is to dispel common environmental misconceptions and to inspire and inform businesses and consumers with engaging, factual information about the inherent environmental sustainability and enduring value of print, paper and paper-based packaging.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

Biomass Basics: Clearing the Air About Paper’s GHG Emissions

Have you heard that the earth is flat, literally flat? Yes, there are serious organizations making impressive-sounding arguments and throwing scientific jargon in every direction to disprove what real science and observation have taught us about our planet, but in the end the earth is still round. So it is with the claim that paper manufacturing is “a major contributor to climate change.”

Too many ENGOs and other self-interested parties have invested years trying to refute the findings of global scientific authorities like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that the paper industry is largely greenhouse gas neutral.  But just like the Flat Earth argument, it takes only a little high school science, sound data and a bit of common sense to separate the truth from the blizzard of activist rhetoric posing as climate change “studies.”

Biomass in the Forest

In high school science class, we learned about photosynthesis, the process where trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, and with the help of radiant energy from the sun convert that CO2 into tree fiber called biomass. As trees grow, they continue to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as biomass until they die, decay or are burned, at which time the CO2 simply returns to the atmosphere in a natural carbon cycle.  This “biogenic” carbon cycle remains in balance and no net carbon is added to the atmosphere as long as forest carbon stocks – the carbon stored in forest biomass – remain stable or increase.

The biogenic carbon cycle concept is central to globally recognized greenhouse gas inventory and accounting protocols, including the IPCC’s Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories. As stated in the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report, “In the long-term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, wood fiber or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained [climate change] mitigation benefit.”

Are forest stocks in the United States growing? The answer is a resounding “yes,” thanks in great part to the sustainable forestry practices and forest certification advocated by the paper industry. The U.S. Forest Service reports that U.S forests grow approximately two times more tree volume than is harvested each year, with net average annual growing forest stock of about 25 billion cubic feet.

Keeping the Carbon Cycle in Balance

It’s not unusual for anti-paper activist fundraising campaigns to include photos of a recently harvested plot of forestland, claiming that such harvests have “devastating climate impacts” because it takes decades for replanted or naturally regenerated trees to grow back and replace the carbon that was removed during harvest. While this type of chicanery may be successful in raising money from unwitting individuals and corporations, it completely ignores the science and economics of sustainable forest management.

In the real world, a balanced biogenic carbon cycle is measured across large spatial landscapes and averaged over time, not as a one-time snapshot of a single plot of land. In sustainably managed forests, a balanced carbon cycle is maintained by harvesting trees on some plots which are then regenerated by replanting or natural means, while trees on other plots continue to grow and absorb carbon. In fact, keeping growing forest eco-systems healthy and productive while regenerating areas that have been harvested for paper and other wood-based products (or damaged by forest fires or insects) is the very definition of sustainable forestry. And it takes little more than common sense to understand that sustainable forest management is critical to the paper industry’s long-term supply of raw materials, and thus its long-term economic health.

Biomass for Energy

Very little of the sustainably grown wood used in papermaking goes to waste. In addition to the fiber that eventually ends up in paper products, leftovers from the tree harvesting and papermaking processes – things like sawdust, small limbs, bark, and wood residuals from the pulping process – are used to generate renewable energy at U.S. paper mills.

Some in the activist community contend that burning biomass for energy at paper mills is a major contributor to climate change because doing so releases large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.  While CO2 is released, it is an inherent part of the biogenic carbon cycle and adds no net carbon to the environment. This is significantly different from burning fossil fuels. When fossil fuels are removed from geologic reserves in the ground and burned for energy, this adds carbon to the atmosphere that has been stored for millions of years – essentially new carbon that contributes to climate change.

How much biomass does the U.S. paper industry use to power its operations? The American Forest and Paper Association reports that nearly two-thirds of the energy needs at U.S. pulp and paper mills (64% on average) are met using renewable biofuels, mostly biomass. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), displacing fossil fuels with this sustainable bioenergy prevents about 181 million metric tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere each year. That’s roughly equal to removing 35 million cars from the road annually.

Papermaking, Biomass and Climate Change

So how does paper manufacturing fit into the overall picture when it comes to GHG emissions and their impact on climate change? The pulp and paper sector was among the first to take voluntary action to reduce GHGs, so it’s no surprise that U.S. paper mills and manufacturing facilities have a solid record of GHG reduction. According to the U.S. EPA’s most recent data, emissions from the sector have steadily declined in recent years, down 21% between 2011 and 2021. This reduction is attributed to the increasing use of carbon-neutral biomass fuel, the switch from coal and oil to less carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as natural gas, and technology enhancements that improved overall energy efficiency.

Is paper manufacturing a major contributor to climate change? Contrary to activist claims and pop culture headlines, the answer is clearly, “no,” and the data supports this finding.  According to the EPA, the U.S. pulp and paper industry is responsible for less than 0.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

For more facts about the sustainability of paper products, click here.

New Two Sides North America Survey Shows Improvement in Consumer Attitudes about Paper Products and the Environment

DAYTON, Ohio – April 27, 2023 – As U.S. consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of the products they use every day, there remains a wide gap between perception and reality when it comes to the sustainability of paper products – but the gap has narrowed over the past two years. Overall, 44% of consumers believe paper products are bad for the environment, down from 48% in 2021. This according to a new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by global research firm Toluna.

“It’s great to see improvement in consumer attitudes about paper and the environment, but we need to accelerate this trend if paper products are to remain competitive in an ever-changing marketplace,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “More and more consumers are factoring environmental impacts into their purchasing decisions, but all too often those decisions are based on longstanding myths, pop culture headlines and corporate greenwashing rather than facts,” she explains. “Everyone whose livelihood depends on paper has a role in changing this. As the world moves toward a more sustainable, circular economy, the paper and paper-based packaging industry has a great, fact-based environmental story to tell: The life cycle of paper is already circular.”

What’s happening to the size of U.S. forest area?

Paper use is often blamed for forest loss, and 55% of those surveyed believe U.S. forests are shrinking, an improvement over 2021, when 60% of consumers said they believe U.S. forest area is decreasing. The facts: U.S. forest area grew by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s most recent Global Forest Resources Assessment. That’s an area equivalent to 1,200 NFL football fields every day. Contrary to the popular belief that manufacturing and using paper destroys forests, the demand for sustainably sourced paper and paper-based packaging creates a powerful financial incentive for millions of private landowners not only to manage and harvest their land responsibly, but also to keep it forested rather than converting it to non-forest use or selling it for development, the leading cause of deforestation in the United States according to the U.S. Forest Service.

What percentage of paper is recycled?

Paper recycling in the United States is a hands down environmental success story, but most consumers don’t know it. According to the survey, only 12% of consumers know the U.S. recycling rate exceeds 60%, up from 11% in 2021. Four in 10 consumers believe the paper recycling rate is less than 30%. The facts: More than two-thirds (68%) of all paper and paper-based packaging in the U.S. is recycled, and more than 91% of corrugated cardboard is recycled according to the American Forest and Paper Association. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that paper is the most recycled material in the country, compared to plastics at 9%, glass at 25% and metals at 34%.

Is electronic communication more environmentally friendly than paper-based communication?

As companies continue to resort to unsubstantiated “go green, go paperless” marketing claims to help them cut costs, 68% of consumers surveyed believe that electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than print on paper, up from 67% in 2021. Clearly, consumers want to do the right things when it comes to the environment, but are often misled by corporate greenwashing that fails to acknowledge the environmental impacts of digital communication.

The facts: The EPA reports that the pulp and paper industry accounts for only 0.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – which isn’t surprising since 64% of the energy needs at U.S. pulp and paper mills are met using renewable, carbon neutral biofuels, mostly biomass. In contrast, the rapidly expanding information communication technology (ICT) industry has a growing carbon footprint arising from GHGs released during all stages of the electronics life cycle. A recent meta-analysis (Freitag, Berners-Lee, et al, 2022) estimates the ICT industry is responsible for up to 3.9% of global GHG emissions and that those emissions will continue to increase without both regulatory and industrial intervention. Unlike the recycling success story of paper products, only 15% of the approximately 7 million metric tons of e-waste generated in the United States each year gets recycled, according to the 2020 Global E-waste Monitor. The rest is landfilled, burned or dumped, causing harm to both the environment and human health.

“The life cycle of paper products is circular by nature,” Rowzie explains. “The raw material used to make them is perpetually regrown, the energy used to manufacture them is generated using mostly renewable, carbon-neutral biofuel, and the circle is completed as used paper is recycled into new products at a higher rate than any other material. Even so, our survey shows that misconceptions about the sustainability of paper products are commonplace. It’s just these types of misconceptions that Two Sides is working to correct. We believe consumers have the right to make purchasing choices based on data and hard facts, free from pop mythology and greenwashing.”

The 2023 Two Sides Trend Tracker Survey queried 1,000 respondents over age 18 across the United States. It is the second of Two Sides’ biennial trend tracker studies designed to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products.

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Download the press release here.

About Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is part of the non-profit Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our mission is to dispel common environmental misconceptions and to inspire and inform businesses and consumers with engaging, factual information about the inherent environmental sustainability and enduring value of print, paper and  paper-based packaging.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

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