What Would Ben Franklin Do?

Making the Environmental Case for Paper

 

By Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

This article was originally published in the March/April 2022 edition of Mailing Systems Technology Magazine.

Mail center professionals, who already operate in a challenging business environment, are increasingly faced with the task of responding to the popular, but scientifically flawed narrative that the paper critical to their operations is somehow environmentally unsustainable. If this describes you, then Ben Franklin, father of the Postal Service and first U.S. postmaster general, offers some sage advice: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

In our increasingly digital world, knowledge – knowing the facts about the unique sustainability of paper – is a potent antidote to the common environmental myths used to justify replacing paper mail with electronic communications: that paper production and use destroys forests, is a major contributor to climate change, consumes enormous amounts of water and generates excessive amounts of waste.

Whether you are the leader of an in-plant mailing operation or the CEO of a company delivering mailing solutions to customers around the globe, these “go paperless” conversations will eventually land on your doorstep, if they haven’t already. To demonstrate to your management, investors, customers and other stakeholders that print on paper is a truly sustainable choice, both today and in the future, you need to be armed with the facts.

Fortunately, there is an arsenal of data to help you make the case for the sustainability paper.

Myth: Using paper causes deforestation and destroys forests

In the United States, trees to make paper are grown, harvested and regrown using sustainable forest management practices that perpetuate infinitely renewable forestlands. While the paper industry was producing products that enrich the lives of consumers, net forestland area in the United States actually increased 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, according to the latest Global Forest Resources Assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That’s an area equivalent to 1,200 NFL football fields every day!

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) reports that less than 2% of U.S. forestland is harvested each year, compared with 3% that is disturbed annually by natural causes like fire, insects and disease, and most of this 2% of harvested wood is used for non-paper purposes.

Contrary to the myth that paper destroys forests, the production of paper products is a powerful economic engine and driving force in keeping U.S. 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 paper 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.

So, is deforestation in the U.S. a real concern? Yes, but using paper is not the cause. The FAO defines deforestation as the permanent loss of forestland. In fact, the definition specifically excludes logging for the production of paper and other products because trees in these “working forests” are expected to grow back, either through natural regeneration or sustainable forestry practices. In the United States, the primary cause of forest loss is rapidly expanding urban development, this according to the USFS.

Myth: Paper is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change

According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),  the pulp and paper industry is responsible for only 0.5% of total annual U.S. GHG emissions. These very low emissions are due to decades of energy efficiency and process improvements at U.S paper mills, and to the fact that the U.S. paper industry generates two-thirds of the energy to manufacture its products using renewable, carbon-neutral fuels, primarily biomass.

According to the EPA, the paper industry produces more carbon-neutral bioenergy than any other industrial sector, using mostly wood-based leftovers from the papermaking process. This bioenergy use prevents around 181 million metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year – roughly equivalent to removing 35 million cars from the road.

Myth: Paper manufacturing consumes enormous amounts of water

While it’s true that the paper industry uses large amounts of water to manufacture its products, most of that water is not consumed in the manufacturing process, this according to the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI). NCASI reports that water used in the papermaking process is recycled up to 10 times in a typical paper mill, and then nearly 90% of that water is cleaned to meet federal and state clean water standards before it is returned to its source. Most of the remaining water evaporates back into the environment, with around 1% retained in the manufactured paper.

Myth:  Paper generates excessive amounts of waste

When it comes to circularity, the idea that products should be reused or recycled, paper has all other materials beat hands down. Thanks to the paper industry’s voluntary, multi-billion dollar investments in commercial paper recovery infrastructure and to the commitment of millions of organizations and individual Americans who choose to recycle every day, U.S. paper recycling has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. At 68%, the EPA reports that the U.S. paper recovery rate is higher than any other material in the country, including plastics (9%), glass (25%) and metals (34%). The recovery rate of corrugated cardboard is 89%.

Myth:  Electronic communication is better for the environment than paper

The miniaturization of digital devices and the “invisibility” of the infrastructures needed to support them leads many to underestimate the environmental footprint of digital technology. This phenomenon is reinforced by the widespread availability of services on the “cloud,” which makes the physical reality of use and the direct environmental impacts of digital technology all the more imperceptible.

Any organization considering a paperless strategy for sustainability reasons must recognize that digital technology places enormous and growing burdens on the environment. Here too, the proof is in the data.

First, consider the environmentally intensive drilling and mining required to extract source materials from the earth. Computers, tablets and other electronic devices are made with non-renewable resources – fossil fuels, chemicals, precious metals, rare earth minerals and toxic minerals like lead, mercury and arsenic that are dangerous when released into the environment. Cisco, the worldwide leader in internet technology, projects that North America will have 5 billion networked devices in 2023, up from 3 billion in 2018 – a 40% increase. Cisco also projects that the average per capita number of devices and connections in the U.S. will reach 13.6 in 2023, far higher than the estimated 2023 global average of 3.6 devices per person.

Electronic devices and the massive server farms that support them are powered using mostly fossil fuels (only 17% of U.S. energy is generated from renewable sources). The Shift Project, a think tank focused on the shift to a post-carbon economy, reports that energy consumption for digital devices is increasing 9% each year, and the share of digital technologies in global greenhouse gas emissions increased by half between 2013 and 2019, from 2.5% to 3.7%.  A 2015 study (Andrae and Elder) estimates that the information technology sector could use as much as 51% of global electricity and contribute 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

And according to the most recent Global E-Waste Monitor report, electronic devices create nearly 7 million metric tons of e-waste annually in the U.S., and only 15% of that e-waste is recycled. Most of the remaining e-waste is either burned, landfilled or dumped.

Paper: A responsible environmental choice

 Digital technology has become an essential part of our everyday lives and is likely making beneficial contributions to your mailing operations, but it also has wide-ranging environmental impacts that continue to grow. While all manufacturing processes have an environmental footprint, the fact that paper is made with an infinitely renewable resource, is manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon-neutral energy, consumes very little water, is recyclable and is recycled more than any other material, makes a strong case for its continued use.

Two Sides North America (twosidesna.org)  is a non-profit organization whose members span the entire print, paper, paper-based packaging and mail value chain. Funded entirely by membership dues, Two Sides is the only industry organization that directly challenges unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper made by corporations, the media, government agencies and others. Two Sides also supports its members with factual, science-based resources to supplement their own sustainability efforts. Learn how to join at twosidesna.org/become-a-member/.

New Research Shows Anti-paper Greenwashing Works, Misleading U.S. Consumers to Switch from Paper to Electronic Bills and Statements

But Two Sides North America’s Anti-greenwashing Campaign Preserves Millions in Annual Revenue for the U.S. Paper, Printing and Mailing Sector

CHICAGO – May 18, 2022 – Anti-paper greenwashing works, unfairly costing the U.S. paper, printing and mailing sector huge sums in lost revenue each year. But Two Sides North America’s (TSNA) Anti-greenwashing Campaign is succeeding in eliminating many of these misleading claims, clawing back hundreds of millions for these businesses, according to the results of the latest TSNA study.

In their efforts to cut costs, many leading U.S. financial institutions, utilities, telecom companies and other service providers are using unsubstantiated environmental marketing claims – greenwashing – to persuade consumers to switch from paper to digital bills and statements, suggesting that going paperless is “green,” “saves trees” or is “better for the environment.”

The new TSNA research results illustrate the damaging effects these greenwashing claims have on the U.S. paper, printing and mailing sector, finding that 65% of those who have seen anti-paper greenwashing claims are influenced to switch from paper to electronic bills and statements. The study, conducted in partnership with global research firm Censuswide, also showed that the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign is having a powerful impact, preserving more than $308 million in annual revenue for the sector.

The Two Sides study surveyed 2000 U.S. consumers and evaluated data on major U.S. companies that have eliminated unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims as a result of the TSNA Anti-greenwashing Campaign. These companies represent approximately 9.5 billion annual bills and statements.

“This study not only confirms the remarkable success of Two Sides’ Anti-greenwashing Campaign, but also drives home the serious financial risk that greenwashing among service providers poses to the paper, printing and mailing sector, threatening the economic security of more than 7 million Americans whose livelihoods depend on paper,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie.

In its most recent report (2020) on transactional mail, the U.S. Postal Service reported that U.S. households annually receive more than 15 billion bills and statements in the mail, representing 41% of total First Class mail. Bills are primarily from credit card companies, utilities, telephone/cable companies and insurance companies, while statements are predominantly sent from the financial/banking sector.

“The Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has been highly successful, but there’s much more work to do as service providers continue to distort the paper industry’s great environmental record and threaten paper, print and mail volumes with opportunistic greenwashing claims,” Rowzie says.

“And it’s important to note that banks, utilities and telecoms are not the only ones using unsubstantiated environmental claims to promote going paperless,” she adds. “Two Sides is also challenging entities like government agencies and large digital document management firms that are greenwashing to encourage both individual consumers and businesses to switch all paper communication to digital versions in the cloud, at the same time failing to recognize the vast and growing environmental footprint of electronic communication.”

Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies and other organizations 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 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. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because organizations seeking to cut costs or promote their own digital business objectives are telling them so. Two Sides is working hard to change that.”

For more information about the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign, visit www.twosidesna.org/anti-greenwash-campaign/.

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DOWNLOAD THE PRESS RELEASE HERE.

About Two Sides

Two Sides is a global, member-funded non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the uniquely sustainable attributes of print, paper and paper-based packaging. Two Sides’ members span the entire print, paper and paper-based packaging value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, packaging, inks and chemicals, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and mail operators.  For more information, visit www.twosidesna.org.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

info@twosidesna.org

937-999-7729

Two Sides Global Anti-Greenwashing Campaign Momentum Continues

Since 2010, Two Sides’ fact-driven campaign has persuaded more than 880 organizations globally, including 159 in North America, to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper from their marketing communications.

CHICAGO – May 4, 2022 – As banks, utilities, telecom companies and government agencies face mounting economic uncertainties, many of these services providers are looking to cut costs by encouraging their customers to switch from paper to digital communications. But all too often, these cost-cutting appeals are cloaked in unsubstantiated and misleading environmental marketing claims that suggest going paperless is “green,” “saves trees” or “is better for the environment.”

“These greenwashing claims not only fail to comply with established environmental marketing standards, but they also damage consumer perceptions of paper’s environmental sustainability,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “And that’s a threat to the economic security of millions of people in the United States and Canada whose livelihoods depend on the paper, print and mailing sector.”

North America’s leading corporations and other service providers influence millions of consumers every day with their anti-paper greenwashing claims, leading many to believe that the use of paper is destroying forests and is bad for the environment. For example, a 2021 Two Sides survey of U.S. consumers showed that 60% believe that U.S. forests are shrinking, when in fact, U.S. net forest area increased by 18 million acres over the past 30 years – the equivalent of 1,200 NFL football fields every day – according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Global Forest Resources Assessment. The UN FAO reports that Canada’s net forest area remained stable at around 857 million acres during the same period.

“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 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. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because their service providers are telling them so. Two Sides is working hard to change that.”

Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies and other organizations 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. Because North America’s leading corporations and other service providers have such an expansive reach, Two Sides anti-greenwashing efforts to date have had an enormous impact, with unsubstantiated “go paperless” environmental messages removed from literally billions of customer communications.

“But there’s much more work to do as companies continue to distort the paper industry’s great environmental record and threaten paper, print and mail volumes with opportunistic greenwashing claims,” Rowzie says. “This is why the Anti-Greenwashing Campaign continues to be a top priority for Two Sides.”

Across North and South America, Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Two Sides has challenged more than 1,900 organizations that have made unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper and continues to pursue those whose use greenwashing claims to mask their cost-cutting efforts.

“We are grateful for the cooperation of the hundreds of organizations that have changed or eliminated greenwashing claims from their messaging, and we are also thankful for the many industry stakeholders and members of the public who send Two Sides examples of greenwashing,” Rowzie concludes.

To learn more about Two Sides North America and its Anti-Greenwashing Campaign, please visit www.twosidesna.org.

About Two Sides

Two Sides is a global, member-funded non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the uniquely sustainable attributes of print, paper and paper-based packaging. Two Sides’ members span the entire print, paper and paper-based packaging value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, packaging, inks and chemicals, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and mail operators.  For more information, visit www.twosidesna.org.

 Download the press release here.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

info@twosidesna.org

937-999-7729

 

 

Just in Time for Earth Day – New Global Greenwashing Guidance

World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) announces a series of recommendations to combat greenwashing and build consumer trust

The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has published a series of recommendations for brands, marketers and advertisers to ensure their environmental claims are credible among consumers and can be backed up if challenged by regulators. The global organization, which represents marketers responsible for 90% of global marketing communications spend around the world, aims to provide marketers with a clear set of principles and best practices to follow when they communicate the actions their companies are taking to drive more sustainable outcomes.

The WFA has identified six core principles that brands should follow:

  • Claims must not be likely to mislead, and the basis for them must be clear.
  • Marketers must hold robust evidence for all claims likely to be regarded as objective and capable of substantiation.
  • Marketing communications must not omit material information. Where time or space is limited, marketers must use alternative means to make qualifying information readily accessible to the audience and indicate where it can be accessed.
  • Marketers must base general environmental claims on the full life cycle of their product or business, unless the marketing communication states otherwise, and must make clear the limits of the life cycle.
  • Products compared in marketing communications must meet the same needs or be intended for the same purpose. The basis for comparisons must be clear and allow the audience to make an informed decision about the products compared.
  • Marketers must include all information relating to the environmental impact of advertised products that is required by law, regulators or Codes to which they are signatories.

A Pledge for the Planet

The six core principles are part of the WFA’s Planet Pledge initiative, which encourages brands to commit to a zero-carbon economy and use their marketing to drive more sustainable behavior. There are currently 27 signatories to the pledge, including brands such as  Bayer, Dole, IKEA, L’Oréal, Mastercard, PepsiCo and Unilever, who collectively represent over $50 billion in marketing spend.

“Current consumer skepticism of environmental claims and marketers’ fear of greenwashing are together the biggest obstacles to our industry being part of the solution to the climate crisis,” said Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA. “Big reductions in CO2 emissions have occurred on the back of technology and innovation; the next big advance needs to be driven by behavioral change. This is where marketers can help. This guidance is an essential first step to creating an environment where marketers and consumers can feel more confident about companies’ sustainability credentials.”

A Growing Movement

 The WFA principles reinforce established environmental marketing guidance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Canadian Standards Association and International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14021), as well as the efforts of the Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign.

“Two Sides is the only industry organization that directly challenges major corporations to stop using unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper products,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “Respected companies that use greenwashing claims damage consumer perceptions of paper and put at risk the livelihoods of more than 7 million people in the North American paper, print and mail sector. Greenwashing also distracts from a company’s legitimate environmental initiatives and can damage corporate reputation when misleading claims are exposed.”

Over the past decade, Two Sides North America has persuaded 157 major corporations and other organizations to stop using unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper, leading to the removal of billions of instances of greenwashing.

To learn more about the Two Sides Anti-Greenwashing Campaign, visit https://twosidesna.org/anti-greenwash-campaign/

Download the WFA Global Guidance on Environmental Claims 2022 at www.wfanet.org/leadership/planet-pledge

 

It’s True: Paper Products Are Not a Major Contributor to Climate Change. Here’s Why…

by Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

If you’ve been following Two Sides or other authoritative sources, you know that the paper products you use do not contribute in any major way to climate change. Why? Because most of the energy used to manufacture them is generated using renewable, carbon neutral biomass. But what does this really mean?

The life cycle of paper, like that of any other widely manufactured and used product, does involve the emission of carbon – the key element in most greenhouse gases. However, with paper, there’s a critical difference.

To put it simply, the carbon released from burning biomass does not contribute to climate change, while the carbon released from fossil fuel does.

Biomass, also called biogenic carbon, is carbon that is absorbed from the atmosphere and stored in trees and other vegetation through photosynthesis. When that biomass later decays in the forest or is burned – either in forest fires or as fuel in a paper mill – its carbon returns back to the atmosphere in an endless natural loop that continuously recycles the same carbon atoms (called the “terrestrial carbon cycle”). Consequently, no new carbon is added to the environment.

On the other hand, the carbon from fossil fuels originates from deposits that have been stored in the earth for tens of millions of years. When coal and oil are extracted from those deposits and burned for energy, “new” carbon from outside the terrestrial carbon cycle is added to the atmosphere. The result is a net increase in greenhouse gases. And that is what’s warming the climate.

In an interesting take on the difference between the two sources of carbon, the U.S. Department of Agriculture compares them to the relationship between landlords and tenants. Biogenic carbon emissions are like tenants who “stay only the duration of their short-term leases, and politely leave over time as the regenerating forest calls them back,” while fossil fuels are “carbon tenants who squat permanently in our home and change the balance we previously had.”

Think about it. Humans have been burning biomass – especially wood – as a primary source of heat for millennia. Yet, as paleoclimatologists have found, not until the industrial revolution, with its massive reliance on fossil fuels, have greenhouse gases begun to increase so dramatically in the atmosphere. Before the widespread use of fossil fuels, the maximum concentration of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) held steady at a maximum of around 280 parts per million (ppm). Since then, however, that concentration has climbed to over 500 ppm, and it continues to increase.

The work of the national and international agencies and bodies directly responsible for the study, regulation and accounting of greenhouse gases is based on the fundamental finding that fossil fuel carbon, not biogenic carbon, is the problem.  Among these organizations are the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Energy Agency, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, to name a few.

It follows then, that a biomass-based industry like papermaking, which uses and emits mostly biogenic carbon, is not a major contributor to climate change. In fact, that’s what the numbers show. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Natural Resources Canada report that the pulp and paper industry in their respective countries is responsible for only 0.5% and 1.2%  of total annual CO2-e emissions. The IPCC states that over the course of a year, the CO2 emissions from the combustion/oxidation/decay of biomass are balanced by carbon uptake prior to harvest, so the net emission is zero. IPCC also states that when used to displace fossil fuels, wood-based fuels can provide sustained carbon benefits and constitute a large [carbon] mitigation option.

It is true that over the life cycle of paper, some carbon is released as greenhouse gases other than CO2. For example, paper that decomposes in landfills releases methane. However, the more paper products are recycled, the less methane is emitted, and paper is recycled more than any other material in the United States. By reducing the amount of paper products going to landfills through recycling, U.S. greenhouse gases emissions were lowered by 155 million metric tons of CO2-e in 2018 – the equivalent of taking over 33 million cars off the road for an entire year, this according to the U.S. EPA.

For more information, download the updated Two Sides Fact Sheet on Paper, Renewable Energy and Carbon Footprint here.

Defending the Sustainability of Paper: We’re All In This Together

Listen to our Podcast with Keypoint Intelligence

Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie and Two Sides Europe Managing Director Jonathan Tame recently talked with German Sacristan, director of on-demand printing and publishing at Keypoint Intelligence, about greenwashing – the use of unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims by corporations and other entities to encourage consumers to stop using paper – and what Two Sides is doing to eliminate it.

Funded entirely through membership dues, Two Sides is the only industry organization that directly challenges major corporations, the media and other types of organizations that promote common environmental myths, such as going paperless “saves trees,” “protects the environment” and “reduces carbon emissions.” Our global anti-greenwashing campaign has resulted in more than 800 companies, government agencies and other organizations changing or eliminating anti-paper environmental claims.

“In North America alone, the companies that have eliminated bogus environmental claims about paper as a result of Two Sides’ anti-greenwashing campaign collectively represent billions of instances of greenwashing and consumers numbering in the hundreds of millions who are no longer seeing anti-paper environmental messages from their service providers,” Rowzie says.

“But Two Sides did not achieve this alone,” she adds. “We’re all in this together, and the continuing support and engagement of our members is critical to helping end greenwashing and to amplifying the great sustainability story of print, paper and paper-based packaging. Two Sides membership is an investment in the future of our industry, and we invite every company whose business depends on paper to join us.”

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TWO SIDES MEMBERSHIP, CLICK HERE.

Reaching Consumers in an Environmentally Responsible Way: The Return of Printed Catalogs   

By Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

After a sharp decline in 2020, printed catalogs are coming back in a big way. Market research firm Keypoint Intelligence reports that digital print volumes – the production method for most smaller-run catalogs – has rebounded close to its pre-pandemic level, and demand is expected to soar past pre-pandemic production next year and continue rising at a compound annual rate of 8% through 2025.

Why? As the rising cost of digital advertising increases the cost of acquiring and keeping customers, brands are looking for omnichannel strategies that enhance customer experiences, build loyalty and increase sales. Printed catalogs allow brands to connect with consumers in ways that digital platforms cannot.

The touch, feel and even the smell of catalogs provide a more intimate shopping encounter, and that interaction can be highly personalized thanks to today’s digital printing technology. Catalogs have staying power far beyond a quick scan on a handheld device. And their enticing visual appeal offers a shopping-as-entertainment experience that drives consumers online to learn more, seek additional products and make both online and in-store purchases. At the same time, the ability to target digital advertising has become less precise with the advent of new online privacy policies that allow consumers to opt out of being tracked.

The catalog comeback can also be attributed to brands’ efforts to tap into growing consumer awareness of sustainability and the desire to create a more environmentally friendly, circular economy. These savvy brands are looking beyond simplistic environmental paper calculators and pop culture myths about the environmental sustainability of paper — that it causes deforestation, is a major contributor to climate change, consumes huge amounts of water and generates excessive waste – and instead, are depending on hard, science-based facts to drive their marketing decisions.

For example, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines deforestation as the permanent loss of forestland. In the United States, trees to make paper are grown, harvested and regrown using sustainable forest management practices that perpetuate infinitely renewable forestlands. In fact, in its recent Global Forest Resources Assessment, the UN FAO reported that net forestland area in the United States actually increased 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020. That’s an area equivalent to 1,200 NFL football fields every day. Continuing demand for sustainably sourced paper encourages landowners to keep their land forested and manage it responsibly rather than selling it for development, the leading cause of deforestation in the United States. The U.S. Forest Service reports that less than 2% of U.S. forestland is harvested each year, compared with 3% that is disturbed annually by natural causes like fire, insects and disease, and most of this 2% of harvested wood is used for non-paper purposes.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the paper industry contributes only 0.5% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions. These very low emissions are due to decades of energy efficiency and process improvements at U.S paper mills, and to the fact that the U.S. paper industry generates two-thirds of the energy to manufacture its products using renewable, carbon-neutral fuels, primarily biomass.

While the paper industry uses large amounts of water to produce catalog papers, most of that water is not consumed in the manufacturing process, this according to the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI). NCASI reports that water used in the papermaking process is recycled up to 10 times in a typical paper mill, and then nearly 90% of that water is cleaned to meet federal and state clean water standards before it is returned to its source. The remaining water is retained in the manufactured paper or evaporates back into the environment.

And when it comes to circularity, paper has all other materials beat hands down. According to the U.S. EPA, around two-thirds of all paper products are recycled, more than any other material.

In today’s highly competitive marketplace where environmental responsibility is a necessary part of any marketing strategy,  brands that choose printed paper catalogs to effectively reach their customers can be confident that they are making a sound environmental choice.

 

 

Can Paper Help Save the 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.

Member Spotlight

With paper production capacity of 1.1 million tons and pulp production capacity of 600,000 tons, Pixelle Specialty Solutions is the largest and fastest growing specialty papers manufacturer in North America. The company operates four paper mills in Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as a coating and converting plant in Ohio.

Pixelle’s broad portfolio of products includes inkjet papers used for wide-ranging applications, from home office and desktop printing to book publishing, billboards and wide-format printing; label stock used for cut-and-stack labels, beverage labels and thermal transfer/direct thermal labels; label and release liners; food packaging papers; bag papers; and paper for cups, straws and lids.

Pixelle is a long-time member of Two Sides and an enthusiastic supporter of Two Sides’ mission to tell the great sustainability story of print, paper and paper-based packaging.

“The paper and packaging sustainability story needs to reach new audiences, and Two Sides has a track record of doing just that,” says Pixelle Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dave Dickerhoof. “Whether it’s fighting misleading claims about our industry’s environmental impact or working with organizations and consumers to better understand the sustainability of print, paper and fiber-based packaging, we appreciate the value Two Sides creates for its membership and for the packaging industry as a whole.”

The Pixelle team creates value for brand owners, converters and end users by providing tailored solutions that go beyond functional product requirements to help these customers meet their sustainability goals and objectives. Pixelle’s release liner recycling program is a prime example. Designed to reduce the amount of silicone paper that goes to landfills or gets incinerated, the program consolidates used release liner from customers and sends it to a recycler that de-siliconizes it. The clean fiber is then returned to Pixelle for use in new liner products.

“We understand that Pixelle has a role to play in advancing a circular, more sustainable economy,” says Dickerhoof. “Using recycled content in our products can have an important environmental impact on the overall life cycle of these products. Our goal is to develop and create new products that maximize that impact and align with the sustainability commitments of our converter and brand partners.”

In response to increasing consumer demand for more sustainable packaging and an end to single-use plastics, another focus area at Pixelle is the development of barrier coating technologies for packaging papers and other applications that deliver desired performance characteristics without the use of plastics and PFAS chemicals.

Pixelle works to understand barrier requirements on a case-by-case basis and tailors solutions that meet overall structural needs, but also focuses on end-of-life and eco-friendly design that eliminates the need for “regrettable substitutes.”

“There are many applications where plastic is not the only viable option,” says Pixelle Vice President of Specialty Papers Bob Van Helden. “For Pixelle, problematic plastics are a focus for resolution. We’re collaborating and partnering with brand owners and converters, looking at historical packaging applications and discovering fiber alternatives to problematic substrates and raw materials.”

For more information about Pixelle Specialty Solutions, visit www.pixelle.com.

For more information on the benefits of Two Sides membership, click here.

How Do We End the Myths About Paper Use and Forests? Everybody has a Part to Play!

North American consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of the products they buy and use, and they want to do the right things. But when it comes to paper products, the right things are often buried under an avalanche of misinformation and outright falsehoods that are made to sound plausible. Environmental advocacy is too often wrapped in a veneer of misleading, science-sounding terminology, or worse, reduced to slogans like “paper equals deforestation” or “billions of trees are cut down every year to make paper packaging.”

Consumers are presented with images of endangered forests in faraway places like the Amazon and Borneo, the implication being that these forests are the source of trees for paper products manufactured in the United States and Canada. The only beneficiaries of these bait-and-switch tactics are anti-paper activists and paper industry competitors, not consumers or the environment.

Most consumers are fair-minded and justifiably concerned about deforestation, so it’s easy to see why many fall for this type of misdirection. A recent Two Sides North America survey showed that 48% of Americans believe paper is bad for the environment, and 60% believe U.S. forests are shrinking. The facts tell a different story. But these misconceptions will continue to proliferate if we don’t actively debunk the myths about paper and the forest.

Every person in the print, paper and paper-based packaging value chain can play an important part in this effort. Sustainable forestry is a comprehensive, science-based approach to protecting and conserving this vital natural resource. But you don’t need to be a scientist or have a special degree to credibly participate in the conversation. All it takes is a basic understanding about the foundations of sustainable forestry and a few facts from credible sources to make the case.

First, let’s lay a little groundwork.

Most people think sustainable forestry simply means planting trees to replace those that are harvested. While that’s certainly a critical element, sustainable forestry is about so much more than that. The U.S. Forest Service defines it as meeting the forest resources needs and values of the present without compromising the similar capability of future generations.

Going far beyond just the physical act of reforestation, sustainable forestry is a land stewardship ethic that integrates the growing, harvesting and regeneration of trees for useful products with the protection and conservation of soil, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, forest contributions to global carbon cycles, aesthetics, and long-term social and economic benefits that meet the needs of society. Achieving these objectives is a tall order, and U.S. and Canadian paper and paper-based packaging companies are instrumental in making it happen. Yes, because it’s the right thing to do, but also because their very existence depends on a thriving and sustainable supply of trees to manufacture the products consumers want and need.

Few enterprises on earth have the benefit of so vast or scientific an infrastructure to promote sustainability and the protection of landscapes and natural values as the North American paper industry. This infrastructure links paper companies; university forestry schools; federal, state and provincial foresters; landowners and loggers; silviculture and soil experts; wildlife biologists; conservation groups; forest certification bodies and others to lead world-class forest stewardship.

Partnerships among these diverse entities drive innovation and real-world sustainability progress grounded in research, the continuing evolution of forestry best management practices, education and training for loggers and landowners, and targeted initiatives to address emerging challenges. In addition, certification organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative rigorously audit forestry practices on the ground to independently certify to paper consumers that the products they use come from responsibly managed forests. More than half of the world’s certified forests are in North America (UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2020).

Here are a few key facts to help make the case that paper is not “destroying forests.”

North American forests are a renewable resource and are not shrinking. U.S. forest area grew by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, and net forest area in Canada remained stable at 857 million acres during the same period (U.N Food and Agriculture Organization, 2020).

Tree harvesting in the U.S. occurs on less than 2% of forestland each year compared to the nearly 3% disturbed annually by natural events like insects, disease and fire. (U.S. Forest Service, 2019)

About 89% of wood harvested in the U.S. comes from privately owned forests (U.S. Forest Service, 2019) which provide most of the wood for domestically produced wood and paper products. Demand for sustainably produced paper products provides a strong financial incentive for landowners to manage their land responsibly and keep it forested rather than selling or converting it for non-forest uses, which is the leading cause of deforestation in the United States. (U.S. Forest Service, 2019).

Thanks to innovations in sustainable forest management techniques, today’s private forest owners in the U.S. are growing 59% to 98% more wood (depending on geographic region) than they remove from their timberlands. (Forest2Market, 2021)

Over 90% of Canada’s forestland is publicly owned and managed by provincial, territorial and federal governments. Canada’s forest laws are among the strictest in the world, protecting forests and ensuring that sustainable forest management practices are followed across the country. (Natural Resources Canada, 2021)

Harvesting occurs on 0.2% of Canada’s forestlands annually, while 4.7% is disturbed by insects and 0.5% is disturbed by fire. (Natural Resources Canada, 2020)

For more facts about the sustainability of the North American paper industry and its products, visit www.twosidesna.org/two-sides-fact-sheet.

 

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