Are North American Forests Really Shrinking? What the Data Tell Us

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.

Global Data

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.

 

 

Member Spotlight: Sappi North America

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.

Two Sides North America Launches “Love Paper” Campaign

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.”

 Publisher support

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  info@lovepaperna.org.

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 FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.

For more information, contact Two Sides at:

E:  info@lovepaperna.org

P:  1-855-896-7433

New Two Sides Fact Sheet Explains Why Paper Bags Are “The Natural Choice”

There is increasing concern about the overuse of plastic bags and in particular, their contribution to marine litter. As a result of plastic pollution in the oceans, governments, retailers and other entities are taking action by introducing bans, fees and other initiatives to limit their use. As all concerned strive to reduce unnecessary packaging as part of a circular, less wasteful economy, paper bags, because of their inherent renewable and recyclable attributes, present an attractive, practical and natural alternative to plastic bags.  READ MORE

New Two Sides Infographic Shows Why Paper Bags are The Natural Choice

Two Sides North America today released an engaging new infographic that shows why paper bags, because of their inherent renewable and recyclable attributes, are an attractive, practical and natural alternative to plastic bags.

Citing authoritative sources, this infographic addresses the growing concern about the overuse of plastic bags and in particular, their contribution to marine litter. For example, according to the World Resources institute, each year about 8 million metric tons of plastic litter ends up in the ocean, where it can harm fish and wildlife and, once it enters the food chain, threaten human health. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that several states have banned single-use plastic bags and hundreds of municipalities have banned or imposed fees on their use, and the Office of the Prime Minister has announced that Canada expects to ban all single-use plastics, including plastic bags, as early as 2021.

The infographic also highlights some of the key reasons why paper bags are a sustainable alternative.

  • Compared to other materials, paper-based goods produced in a sustainable manner can be a wise choice because they come from a renewable resource – trees, the product of sunlight, soil, nutrients and water (World Resources Institute).
  • Paper is one of the most recycled materials in North America with a recovery rate of 68% in the United States and 70% in Canada (American Forest and Paper Association, Forest Products Association of Canada).
  • In a 2019 survey in the United States and Canada, consumers ranked paper as the second most environmentally friendly material (behind wood) out of 8 different materials and products. Plastics ranked seventh (Toluna and Two Sides).

“As all concerned strive to reduce unnecessary packaging as part of a circular, less wasteful economy, businesses and consumers can be confident that using paper bags is a responsible choice,” says Two Sides North America President Phil Riebel. “The raw material used for paper bags made in the U.S. and Canada comes from sustainably managed forests where trees are grown, harvested and regrown in accordance with responsible forest management practices, environmental regulations and globally recognized forest certification standards, and the U.S. and Canada are world leaders in paper recycling. That’s why paper bags are a natural choice.”

Download the new Two Sides new infographic here.

About Two Sides 

Two Sides North America is an independent, non-profit organization, and is 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 FacebookLinkedIn, and Twitter.

Contact Two Sides at:

E:  info@twosidesna.org

P:  1-855-896-7433

 

 

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