While many of the household products we use are not sustainable, paper products should be—paper production can, in theory, capture more greenhouse gasses than it emits. However, current paper production contributes more greenhouse gasses than it captures and significantly contributes to climate change.
Paper production also causes a significant loss of trees, especially in fragile ecosystems. This loss of trees threatens the surrounding area, the delicate balance within ecosystems, and the planet as a whole as we lose a reliable source of carbon capture. Other issues arise from paper production, such as environmental contamination. The papermaking process releases both wastewater and fossil fuels into the environment. Specifically, most of the energy used during pulp preparation, a step in paper production, comes from fossil fuels.
Luckily, we can combat this climate change contributor. For one, the paper industry can work towards sustainability through better-managing forests and deforestation, working towards more efficient energy consumption, and treating wastewater before releasing it into the environment. On a more individual level, we can recycle our paper. Unlike other materials, recycling paper can easily help limit climate change. Though it doesn’t directly save trees, it can save energy and water and keep paper out of landfills.
Paper consumption in and of itself is not evil. If we want to continue on our current path, however, both we and the paper industry need to do our part in making paper sustainable.