By Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America
You’ve no doubt seen the impassioned ENGO fundraising claims warning that “billions of trees are cut down each year to make paper products,” and as a result, “deforestation is accelerating at a rapid pace.” Their suggested solution to this “deforestation crisis and its climate impacts” is to eliminate the use of wood fiber to manufacture paper products – 50% by 2030 – and replace it with recycled content or so called “next generation” alternative fibers.
But as President John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” And the fact is that sustainably produced North American paper products are not a cause of deforestation, no matter what some ENGOs say or how many times they say it.
Deforestation is defined by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other credible environmental organizations as the permanent conversion of forestland to non-forest uses. Every five years, the UN FAO publishes its Global Forest Resources Assessment, a comprehensive report on the state of the world’s forests. Its most recent report states, “The rate of net forest loss decreased substantially over the period 1990–2020 due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries, plus increases in forest area in others through afforestation and the natural expansion of forests.” The UN FAO also reports that those areas of the world that consume the greatest amount of wood have the least amount of deforestation – areas like the United States and Canada.
Yes, deforestation remains a problem, particularly in the developing world due primarily to the conversion of forestland to agricultural crops for animal feed. But net forestland in the U.S. actually increased 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, even in the face of deforestation driven by rapidly expanding urban development and climate change, and net forestland in Canada remained stable during the same period (UN FAO).
Thanks in great part to the sustainable forestry practices advocated by the paper and forest products industry, the annual increase in U.S. tree volume is roughly twice the amount that is harvested (US Forest Service, USFS). By law, every hectare of forestland that is commercially harvested on Canada’s public lands (94% of all Canadian forestland) must be reforested (Natural Resources Canada, NRCan). Only 0.2% of Canadian forestland (NRCan) and less than 2% of U.S. forestland (USFS) is harvested annually, and the vast majority of that harvest is used for non-paper purposes.
Recycling as much paper as possible is indeed a desirable environmental goal, and recycling is critical to a more sustainable, circular economy. In the U.S., 68% of paper and paper-based packaging gets recycled, and the recovery rate for corrugated cardboard stands at an amazing 91%. But paper can be recycled only five to seven times before its wood fibers become too weak to bond into new products, making the use of only recycled content a practical impossibility. If fresh wood fiber isn’t continuously added to the manufacturing stream, the supply of recycled fiber would quickly run out and paper production would cease.
Expanding the use non-wood fibers to meet the growing global demand for paper products, especially packaging, can be an environmentally sound option, and for some uses they make sense. But suggesting that wood fiber simply be replaced with non-wood alternatives as a one-size-fits-all solution to deforestation and climate change ignores both the science and economics of papermaking.
In North America, it is the consistent demand for responsibly sourced paper products that provides the economic incentive to keep land forested and sustainably managed, land that might otherwise be converted to non-forest uses. However, in countries where wood resources are scarce, such as China and India, non-wood fibers including purpose grown fibers and agricultural residues, have been effectively used in papermaking. Wood, agricultural crops and crop residues are all important sources of papermaking fiber. Which sources make the most environmental and economic sense are inherently driven by:
Those who genuinely want to solve the problem of deforestation and its climate change impacts need to stop following the “dictates of their passion” and focus on real world, fact-based solutions that will make a meaningful difference for our planet.
The recent United Nations global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, brought the world’s leaders together again to try to reach agreement on further commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. High on the agenda was preserving the health of the world’s forests – a critical natural resource for absorbing these emissions.
With this heightened international attention on preventing deforestation, primarily in the developing world, now is a good time to remind ourselves that the North American forests that supply the wood fiber for our paper and packaging products are among the most sustainably managed in the world.
They are so well-managed, in fact, that our forests continue to be a net absorber of carbon. In the United States, sustainable forest management practices, the regeneration of forest area and modern harvesting practices resulted in a net sequestration of carbon every year from 1990 to 2019, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) reports that U.S. forests annually capture and store 14% of economy-wide carbon dioxide emissions. Natural Resources Canada reports that forestlands capture and store around 19% of all carbon dioxide equivalents emitted in the country.
The production of wood and paper products is a powerful economic engine and driving force in keeping North American lands forested. By providing a dependable market for responsibly grown fiber, the paper industry encourages landowners to manage their forestland instead of selling it for development or other non-forest uses. More than half (58%) of the forestland in the U.S. is privately owned and managed, mostly by millions of small landowners, and they are under no obligation to keep their lands forested. Without the economic incentive provided by the forest products industry, untold millions of acres of forestland would likely have been lost permanently to commercial land development – converted to building projects, strip malls or parking lots.
For proof, look no further than countries where there is little economic incentive to keep lands forested. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Global Forest Resources Assessment, those areas of the world that consume the least amount of wood have the greatest problem with the kind of deforestation that the Glasgow conferees were trying to address.
Compare that with North America’s forest products industry. While they were producing the wood and paper products that enrich the lives of consumers, net forest area in the U.S. grew by some 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, according to the UN FAO, and Canada’s forest area of 857 million acres has been stable over the same period. By law, every acre of Canadian forest that is commercially harvested must be regenerated.
In the U.S., the net average annual increase in growing stock on timberland is about 25 billion cubic feet, according to the USFS, and forests in the U.S. annually grow nearly twice as much wood as is harvested. USFS also reports that tree harvesting in the U.S. occurs on less than 2% of forestland per year in contrast to the nearly 3% disturbed annually by natural events like insects, disease, and fire, and most of this harvested wood is used for non-paper purposes. Harvesting in Canada occurs on only 0.2% of forestlands, while 4.7% is disturbed by insects and 0.5% is disturbed by fire, this according to Natural Resources Canada.
The Glasgow summit also kicked off a discussion of the inherent advantages of bio-based materials – like paper and paper-based packaging– in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their potential role in a more broad-based, circular bio-economy. The FAO released a report demonstrating how renewable wood-based products can help combat climate change and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
According to Dr. E. Ashley Steel, Forest Statistics Expert at the UN FAO:
“There is strong evidence at the product level that wood products are associated with lower GHG emissions over their entire life cycle compared to products made from GHG-intensive and non-renewable materials. Wood and wood-based products are generally associated with lower fossil and process-based emissions when compared to non-wood products.”
The document left open for later study the extent to which paper and paper-based packaging may serve as substitutes for non-wood products in the search for those that contribute to the net reduction of greenhouse gases, but there’s little doubt that any product sourced from materials that are grown and regrown are better for combating climate change than the non-paper alternatives.
Earlier this month, the global forestry advisory body to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) released details on how sustainable forest management and forest products are well-positioned to drive a healthy, green and inclusive recovery as the world continues to face serious challenges related to COVID-19. In its statement, the Advisory Committee of Sustainable Forest-based Industries (ACSFI) referenced the essential role that forestry and forest products have played during the pandemic – and how they can help drive much-needed economic recovery.
ACSFI is a statutory body that guides FAO on issues concerning the sustainable consumption and production of forest products. It also provides a forum for dialogue between FAO and the private sector, with a view to identifying strategic actions that promote sustainable forest management. The United States and Canada are represented on the committee by American Forest and Paper Association President and CEO Heidi Brock and Forest Products Association of Canada CEO Derek Nighbor, respectively.
The ACSFI statement highlights that during the pandemic, forest products have played a crucial role in keeping people safe and healthy by providing personal protective equipment and other supplies and services, including hygiene and sanitary products, biomass for heating, ethanol for sanitizer, respirator paper, and packaging for food and other goods. In order to continue the uninterrupted supply of these products, the paper and forest products sector has been appropriately recognized in many parts of the world, including the United States and Canada, as an essential service.
As policy makers work to enable sustainable approaches to COVID-19 recovery and support industries that can help ensure a better future, the ACSFI advises that sustainable forest-based industries provide:
The paper and forest products industry and our workers across North America continue to embrace this call to action by delivering quality products with health and environmental benefits, practical solutions to lower our carbon footprint and family-supporting jobs for our people. The ACSFI global statement confirms that we have opportunities to do even more.
You can read the full ACSFI statement here.
Across all environmental issues related to the manufacture of paper-based products in North America, the harvesting of trees for wood fiber is arguably the most familiar, yet also the most misunderstood. Decades of misguided marketing messages that suggest using less paper protects forests along with deliberate anti-paper campaigns by environmental groups that twist scientific facts to suit their own agendas have left many feeling guilty for using products that are inherently sustainable. They are made from a renewable resource, are recyclable and are among the most recycled products in the world, and are manufactured using a high level of renewable energy – all key elements in a circular economy.
So, what’s the most effective way to reverse the misconceptions of those who believe the North American print, paper and paper-based packaging industry is shrinking U.S. and Canadian forests? It’s simple: Show them the data.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been monitoring the world’s forests at five- to 10-year intervals since 1946. The FAO’s 2020 global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) presents a comprehensive view of the world’s forests and the ways in which this important resource changed between 1990 and 2020. The data from 236 countries were collected using commonly agreed upon terms and definitions through a transparent, traceable reporting process and a well-established network of officially nominated national representatives. These include the USDA Forest Service and Natural Resources Canada.
Since 1990, there has been a net loss of 440 million acres of forests globally, an area larger than the entire state of Alaska. A net change in forest area is the sum of all forest losses (deforestation) and all forest gains (forest expansion) in a given period. FAO defines deforestation as the conversion of forest to other land uses, regardless of whether it is human-induced. FAO specifically excludes from its definition areas where trees have been removed by harvesting or logging because the forest is expected to regenerate naturally or with the aid of sustainable forestry practices.
In contrast, despite deforestation by urban development, fire, insects and other causes, total forest area in the United States actually increased and forest area in Canada has remained stable since 1990. This is due in great part to sustainable forest management practices implemented by the North American paper and forest products industry, the highest percentage of certified forests (nearly 50%) in the world, and laws and regulations aimed at protecting forest resources.
The world has a total forest area of around 10 billion acres or 31% of total land area. More than half (54%) of these forests are in just five countries – the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States and China.
Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020 at 9.6 million acres, followed by South America, at 6.4 million acres.
While the net loss of 440 million acres of forest is troubling, there is some improvement in the global numbers. The rate of net forest loss decreased substantially over the period 1990–2020 due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries, plus increases in forest area in others through afforestation (establishing forest where none existed previously) and the natural expansion of forests. The annual rate of net forest loss declined from 19.2 million acres in 1990–2000 to 12.8 million acres in 2000–2010 and 11.6 million acres in 2010–2020.
While an estimated 1.04 billion acres of forest have been lost worldwide to deforestation since 1990, the rate of deforestation also declined substantially. Between 2015 and 2020, the annual global rate of deforestation was estimated at around 25 million acres, down from 30 million acres between 2010 and 2015.
Globally, 54% of forests have long-term forest management plans. FAO defines forest management as the process of planning and implementing practices for the stewardship and use of forests targeted at specific environmental, economic, social and cultural objectives. Around 96% of forestlands in Europe has management plans, 64% in Asia, less than 25% in Africa and only 17% in South America.
U.S. and Canada Data
According to the 2020 FRA, the United States and Canada account for 8% and 9%, respectively, of the world’s total forest area.
In the U.S., total forest area increased by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, which averages out to the equivalent of around 1,200 NFL football fields every day. Canada’s total forest area remained relatively stable over the 30-year assessment period at approximately 857 million acres.
Approximately 59% of forestlands in North America has long-term forest management plans.
Help Spread the Word!
The North American print, paper and paper-based packaging industry plays a significant role in keeping U.S. and Canadian forests sustainable for future generations, and that’s something to be very proud of. One of the best ways to show that pride is by taking every available opportunity to bust the myth that the production of paper products destroys forests. For more facts to help you spread the word, check out our Two Sides fact sheet on Paper Production and Sustainable Forestry here.
Headquartered in Boston, Sappi North America (SNA) is an industry leader with more than 2,000 employees in the United States and Canada, and four mills with the capacity to produce 1.35 million metric tons of paper and packaging and 1.17 million metric tons of kraft, high-yield and dissolving pulp.
SNA has been a member of Two Sides since its beginning, and both organizations benefit greatly from this strong partnership. With its long-standing commitment to employee and product safety and its dedication to delivering products that meet customers’ needs for more sustainable solutions, SNA is an invaluable source of environmental expertise and thought leadership for Two Sides. With its global network and wide-ranging sustainability resources, Two Sides helps amplify Sappi’s voice in telling the great environmental story of print and paper products.
High on Sappi’s priority list is a continued commitment to productively engage in the circular economy through material waste reduction, product design for end of life, and carbon mitigation strategies. The company recently set ambitious new sustainability targets aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and has committed to the Science Based Targets initiative to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
As part of his broader role in pursuing those targets, SNA Director of Sustainability Sandy Taft, who also serves on the Two Sides Board of Directors, is keenly focused on how to describe and promote the role that the forest products industry can play in carbon sequestration strategies in North America and globally, and views Two Sides as a valuable resource.
“Two Sides is an important advocate for the paper industry and one that Sappi is glad to support,” Taft says. “As a current Two Sides board member, I’ve been impressed with the organization’s dedication to creating an effective dialogue about the power of paper paired with their fact-based approach. The materials they develop often take scientifically complex ideas and make them accessible and easily digestible. For example, their robust social media content is available to members, and we use it at Sappi to raise awareness with our followers,” he explains. “Two Sides is a valuable contributor to the global conversation about the sustainability of paper and paper-based packaging.”
Across its businesses, SNA is helping to accelerate the transition to a bio-based, circular economy. This includes unlocking the chemistry of trees to meet the challenges of a carbon-constrained world. “In a warming world with increasingly scarce resources, developing sustainable solutions in not just our responsibility, it is an opportunity that Sappi is embracing,” Taft says. “Trees are a renewable resource with enormous potential for broad-based advances that allow us to continue to sustainably deliver paper, packaging and other products that society needs while effectively addressing climate change.”
In addition to driving continuous improvement in the sustainability of its papermaking operations, Sappi is exploring alternative uses for wood fiber. By developing innovative new processes and biomaterials that extract more value from each tree, the company seeks to provide sustainable, low-carbon alternatives to materials commonly used today. For example, the company’s new Symbio bio-composite product aims to replace traditional materials in auto components, thus reducing total vehicle weight and significantly reducing the carbon footprint of vehicle emissions.
Sappi North America, Inc. is a subsidiary of Sappi Limited (JSE), a global company headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, with more than 12,000 employees and manufacturing operations on three continents in seven countries and customers in over 150 countries. For more information, visit www.sappi.com.
Website and ads feature sustainability facts about print and paper products related to forestry, recycling and renewable energy use in the U.S. and Canada
CHICAGO, June 25, 2020 – Two Sides North America today announced the launch of Love Paper, a new campaign designed to raise consumer awareness of the unique and inherently sustainable characteristics of print, paper and paper-based packaging. The centerpiece of the campaign is a consumer-friendly website, lovepaperna.org, where the click of a mouse reveals surprising facts about how print and paper products contribute to a sustainable future for us all.
“As consumers become increasingly concerned about the environmental impacts of the publications they read, the products they buy and the packaging those products come in, they need factual, science-based information to make informed purchasing decisions,” says Two Sides North America President Phil Riebel. “But all too often, they have little more than unsubstantiated marketing claims like ‘go green, go paperless’ or ‘going paperless saves trees’ to guide them. We created the Love Paper campaign to make it easy for anyone to get verifiable facts about the sustainability of print and paper products from a wide variety of trusted sources.”
A key element of the Love Paper campaign is a series of print ads that promote the sustainability of print and paper. The ads, which focus on the sustainable forestry, recycling and renewable energy advantages of paper, are available to newspaper and magazine publishers free of charge. Editor & Publisher (E&P) magazine, the authoritative journal covering all aspects of the newspaper industry, is among the ad campaign’s most enthusiastic supporters.
“The newspaper industry and our suppliers are very focused on environmental sustainability, so supporting the Love Paper campaign is a natural fit for us,” says E&P Publisher Mike Blinder. “We especially like the ‘Paper Revolution’ ad on recycling because newspaper recycling is such a big part of the American recycling success story. Nearly 70% of old newspapers are recycled into new newsprint, boxboard and other products. The Love Paper ads help us share this great story with our readers.”
The full color ads are available in full page, half page (horizontal and vertical) and quarter page sizes. Publishers interested in running the ads can go to the “For Publishers” page on the www.lovepaperna.org website or email Two Sides North America at email@example.com.
Consumers Underestimate the Sustainability of Print and Paper Products
By their very nature, print and paper products are an important part of a circular economy where resources are used as productively and efficiently as possible. They are made with renewable raw materials, are recyclable and in North America are manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon-neutral energy, making them an environmentally sound choice for reading materials, communications and packaging solutions. Yet many North American consumers significantly underestimate how sustainable print and paper products truly are.
For example, a 2019 survey commissioned by Two Sides found that 58% of consumers believe U.S. forests are shrinking. In fact, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates these forests, which supply the fresh wood fiber used by the U.S. pulp and paper industry, grew by a net area equivalent to more than 1,600 NFL football fields per day between 1990 and 2015. In Canada, only 21% of consumers think the recycling rate for paper and paper-based packaging exceeds 60%. In reality, the Canadian recycling rate is among the highest in the world at 70% according to the Forest Products Association of Canada.
“Our surveys also show that 68% of U.S. consumers believe print is the most enjoyable way to read books and 65% prefer reading printed magazines, with Canadian consumer preferences closely matching those of Americans,” Riebel says. “On the packaging side, our data also show that more than half of U.S. consumers surveyed are actively taking steps to reduce their use of plastic packaging as evidence of harm caused by plastic litter in the oceans continues to grow. The Love Paper campaign provides credible, fact-based information on why print and paper products are an environmentally responsible choice.”
About Two Sides
Two Sides North America, Inc. is an independent, non-profit organization that promotes the sustainability of the Graphic Communications and Paper-based Packaging value chain and dispels common environmental misperceptions about print and paper products. We are part of the Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our member companies span the Graphic Communications and Paper-based Packaging value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, paper-based packaging, chemicals and inks, pre-press, press, finishing, printing, publishing, envelopes and postal operations. For more information about Two Sides North America, visit us at www.twosidesna.org and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
For more information, contact Two Sides at:
The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) and Forest2Market recently released a study showing that the economic impact of private working forests on the U.S. economy is substantial.
Additionally, there is a misperception that forest management is causing the destruction of forest lands in the U.S. The research repeatedly shows that increased demand for wood products results in increased forests and that environmental and economic interests are compatible. Landowners maximize tree growth, and wood, paper and energy product manufacturers take harvesting and regeneration very seriously to utilize every part of the tree. The result is an industry that produces little waste and a final product that continues to capture carbon from the atmosphere to help mitigate climate change. Ultimately, it is a critical synergy that ensures that forest lands continue to be maintained as forests.
From a news release from the Forest Products Association of Canada
Vancouver, BC – Earlier today, the C.D. Howe Institute released a new report entitled: “Branching out: How Canada’s Forest Products Sector is Reshaping its Future”. The study explores current industry trends and advancements that Canada’s forest products sector has made in the face of growing business challenges. It also provides a number of recommendations, which would enable the sector to enhance its contributions to the Canadian economy and our country’s environmental goals.
“Canada’s forest products sector is undergoing a period of massive and exciting transformation. This is critical to sustaining and growing job opportunities for workers and families in our northern and rural forestry communities,” said Derek Nighbor, President and CEO of Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC). “We see rapid growth in the use of wood in building construction, emerging wood fiber-based products that can replace more carbon intensive ones, and innovative ideas and process improvements in our forests and at our mills that can deliver even greater environmental and economic benefits to Canada and the world,” he added.
As noted by study author Eric Miller: “Canada’s forest sector shows potential as a leader in innovation, environmental sustainability and international trade”. The report proposed the following ideas for action:
FPAC provides a voice for Canada’s wood, pulp, and paper producers nationally and internationally in government, trade, and environmental affairs. The $69-billion-a-year forest products industry represents 2% of Canada’s GDP and is one of Canada’s largest employers operating in more than 600 communities and providing 230,000 direct jobs across the country.
John Mullinder started his journalistic career in New Zealand before emigrating to Canada in the mid-1980s. Over the past 27 years, Mr. Mullinder has led a national environmental council for the country’s paper packaging industry. Frustrated by encounters with people who knew so little about forestry and paper production but had plenty of opinions about killing and saving trees, John was compelled to write a book called, Deforestation in Canada and Other Fake News.
“Many people believe that cutting down trees is deforestation and the emotional image they associate with this is an ugly clear cut,” states Mr. Mullinder. “I debunk these myths with hard facts, well-documented evidence, references and real images of deforestation.”
Deforestation is often incorrectly defined and associated with the forestry products industry. In reality, deforestation is defined as the permanent destruction of forests to make the land available for other uses. One reason Mr. Mullinder chose to show an agricultural scene on the cover of his book is to point out that the primary causes of deforestation are due to agriculture, oil and gas projects, and urbanization.
Information from Two Sides and Dovetail Partners helped to debunk myths that are key to understanding the value of supporting the forestry and paper industry.
We asked Mr. Mullinder what he thought the biggest challenges were to combat the misinformation around the forestry industry. He believes that the reach and impact of negative visual images and widespread misinformation on social media influences the reader’s perception, especially the younger generation. Although the forest and paper industry has greatly improved its environmental performance over the past 50 years, there is still a great deal of work to be done to combat the distorted information. Mr. Mullinder believes the industry needs to continue to aggressively educate the public through organizations like Two Sides, to establish credibility while telling the strong story about the renewability, sustainability, and recyclability of forestry and paper.
Click here for more information about John Mullinder, or to learn more about his book.
Two Sides members are provided with a wealth of fact-based tools and information that companies, schools, authors and organizations can use to support their own educational goals. Connect with us online at www.twosidesna.org and through social media on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. To join us, please visit the Two Sides Membership page, contact us by email at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 855-896-7433.
U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR) holds a Master’s Degree in Forestry from Yale University and understands better than most that a healthy and sustainably managed forest is not a partisan issue.
The use of forest products by society drives a healthy market as well as the incentive for forest owners to manage their forests sustainably. In other words, wood product use, paired with a commitment to recycling and sustainable forest management, including replanting many more trees than we use (standard practice in North America), will result in healthy, vibrant forests.
Read the details of Representative Westerman’s story about sustainable forestry, economics, family forests, and forestry jobs in Arkansas and how by working together it makes for healthy forests.