Scroll down to the 'Recap: What Can We Do?' section at the bottom if you just want a brief summary of the actions you can take to help solve the problem.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
Trees are one of our best chances of avoiding climate change. That’s because they store carbon instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. Unfortunately, we’re cutting trees down faster than new ones are being planted. Deforestation is responsible for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Forests are also one of the most important habitats for wildlife. So as we’re losing forest, we’re also losing animals such as elephants, orangutans, gorillas and tigers. Many of the creatures that make their homes in forests are at the brink of extinction. So if we're going to stand any chance of preventing climate change and the extinction of wildlife then we need to re-access the way in which we use trees.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
Paper is one of the many reasons for deforestation. Therefore if we can reduce our paper consumption then we can help prevent climate change and wildlife loss.
Avoiding using paper where possible is one of the best ways. For example, instead of using post-it notes or a fresh piece of paper you could use your smartphone to write down a reminder or list.
If technology isn’t for you then reusing is also a green way to go. Backs of receipts, unneeded letters and used envelopes are great to use for writing lists. One post-it-note might not seem like much but, like everything, when you think of millions of people using them it really does make a huge difference.
Printing is something else to consider. Lots of train tickets, boarding passes and entry tickets for attractions can now be saved to smart phones with no need to print anything off. Doing this is a brilliant way to be more eco-friendly, just make sure your phone is well charged. If you use your phone a lot then you could get yourself a solar-powered power bank to relieve the pressure of your phone dying when you need your ticket.
When it comes to things you do need to print, could you print it double sided? Or crop out that one sentence extra which will go into another sheet of paper? Not only could this help avoid deforestation, 20 litres of water can be used to make one piece of A4 paper! On top of that, many toxic chemicals are used in the process which pollute our fresh water. So every piece of paper really does count!
Making use of our brilliant technology is great for things like online banking and email receipts too. These are simple ways to cut down on paper usage.
Reusable is always better for the environment with anything. That's because so many resources go into producing materials that the more the item can be used the less costly to the Earth's resources. Therefore, moving away from the single-use society we have would definitely have a massive positive difference on the natural world.
For example, tissues can easily be replaced with handkerchiefs. There is even a reusable alternative to kitchen roll that can be washed. If you wash these at 30 degrees and air dry where possible then you’ll be doing much greener things for the planet!
If reusable isn’t practical for your lifestyle then there are still more eco-friendly paper product alternatives such as tissues and kitchen roll made of bamboo instead of timber.
Generally speaking, it takes far less energy and resources to make products from recycled materials than it does to create products from raw materials. Therefore, choosing recycled products is also a brilliant way to be greener, for example, toilet paper, kitchen roll, tissues, notepads and diaries made from recycled paper. Opting for recycled paper products means a tree hasn’t been directly cut down to make the item. Instead, you're extending the life of the raw material initially used.
Cotton buds are another area to cut down on paper waste. It's great that in the UK we've now switched from plastic to paper stems, however we can still do better. LastSwab are a Denmark-based company who have invented a reusable alternative. They've even created a design for makeup use. Over time these are a much more sustainable than any single-use cotton bud. If reusable isn't for you then there are also more sustainable single-use cotton buds made from bamboo which come in plastic-free packaging.
Junk mail is something we could also avoid. Even if you throw it in the recycling bin, if you’re not actually using it then it’s best if it can be avoided altogether. Sadly some junk mail that comes through the door is coated with plastic so can't even be recycled! A way to avoid this is unsubscribing from companies who send you junk mail where possible.
Sending greeting cards is something ingrained into our culture. In the UK alone we send over 700 million greeting cards each year! If this is something which doesn’t sit right with you environmentally then you could try sending e-cards instead. All the eCard sites we've listed here support charities, so not only will you be doing something that is better for the planet but you can support organisations creating positive change at the same time!
If you do prefer to send physical cards, choosing cards with no glitter or plastic coating is much better for the environment, as that way they at least can be recycled when they're finished with. Better yet is opting for recyclable cards made from recycled paper.
Reusing received cards as tags for presents is another great way to cut down on paper and also save some money! The same applies to wrapping paper you receive gifts in, if it’s still in good condition then why not reuse it for a gift you’re giving?
Another idea is to not wrap presents. This goes against a habit of our society but it’s definitely better for the environment! If this is a tradition which you don't want to change then opting for recycled wrapping paper which is also recyclable is the next best thing. For plenty more tips on how to give gifts and cards more sustainably have a look at our Gifts page.
Disposable drinks cups are something else to avoid if possible. Not only are trees cut down to make them but they’re also lined with plastic and only 1 in 400 of them are recycled. When you think of the 7 million disposable cups which the UK alone gets through everyday that's a lot of cups going to landfill! Switching to a reusable cup is a much more sustainable choice.
When it comes to books, reading devices are a green way to go. These are even better if you’re with a green energy provider, so when you charge it up you’re still avoiding global warming. Again, if technology isn’t for you then you could see if you can buy the book you want second-hand before buying new.
When shopping, try to avoid paper bags as well as plastic ones by taking your own. Reusable bags are much better for the environment than single-use. Supermarkets are gradually switching from plastic to paper bags for loose goods. Reusable produce bags are even better though as every bit of paper avoided makes a positive difference. These can be used for loose fruit, veg, baked goods and even packaging-free cosmetic bars.
What we do with paper when we’ve no use left for it is also very important. If it’s good quality paper, try to make sure it goes in the recycling bin. If you haven’t got a recycling bin at home or in work then you could see what you can do to get one. The more which can be recycled instead of going to landfill the better!
RECAP: WHAT CAN WE DO?
Avoid using fresh paper when possible. Try using your smartphone or backs of receipts, unneeded letters and used envelopes instead.
Use e-tickets on your smartphone instead of printing. Use a solar-powered power bank if you're worried about your phone running out of battery.
Print double sided and avoid going into another sheet for one sentence if possible.
Use online banking and opt for email receipts.
Unsubscribe to junk mail and put what you do receive in the recycle bin.
Reuse received greeting cards as present tags.
Try to avoid wrapping presents or reuse received wrapping paper.
If you prefer to wrap presents, use recycled wrapping paper which is also recyclable and avoid shiny unrecyclable wrapping paper coated with glitter or foil.
Find out more sustainable tips for giving gifts and greeting cards here.
Switch to a reading device or try to buy books second-hand.
Recycle the paper you do use.