Answering this question is not easy because the answer depends on a number of variables, such as the density of the wood, the size of the tree, and the type of pulping process used. Recently, however, the Sierra Club published a response to such an inquiry, estimating that a single 8 inch diameter tree produces about 10,000 – 20,000 sheets of paper. Other numbers I’ve seen range as high as 100,000 sheets per tree. This may not sound like many trees necessary to meet consumption, but when you consider that the U.S. alone produced nearly 21 million tons of paper last year, this amounts to millions upon millions of trees. According to the American Forest & Paper Association, about 60% of the paper consumed in the U.S. is recovered each year for recycling. Though this is good news, it leaves much room for improvement.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Every ton of paper recovered for recycling saves approximately 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 380 gallons of oil, and 4,000 kilowatts of energy (enough to power the average U.S. home for six months!). That said, reducing paper consumption translates to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as well, thus lessening the impacts of climate change.
Not Simply for “Tree-Huggers”
It is important to highlight that recycling is not simply a “tree-hugging”, “eco freak” measure to save the forests, but rather to protect human health as well. Paper mills are highly polluting operations around which many human populations reside. For every one ton reduction of paper consumed there is a corresponding reduction in air and water pollution. So reduce your paper consumption when you can, and recycle your used paper ALWAYS!
10 Tips to Reduce Paper Waste
1) Copy on both sides of the paper.
2) Adjust fonts, margins, and spacing to fit more text on a single sheet.
3) Use lighter weight paper. Lighter paper requires less energy and fewer raw materials when it's manufactured.
4) Reuse paper that has been printed on one side. It can be used as scratch paper or for printing internal memos.
5) Use email and voice instead of hard prints when possible.
6) Eliminate unnecessary subscriptions. Cancel newspapers, newsletters, and magazines you don't read or can access online, and take your name off mailing lists to reduce junk mail.
7) Use electronic data storage instead of hard copy files.
8) Use recycled-content, chlorine-free paper products, and use soy or other agri-based inks for printing projects.
9) Place recycling bins near high-traffic areas such as conference rooms, kitchens, photocopy rooms, and fax areas in your office building.
10) Conduct a "paper" audit to determine the kind and volume of paper waste your company generates, then take steps to lessen such waste.
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