By Frances Ringwood

At the bottom of many electronic messages it says, “Save the rainforests, don’t print this email.” That footnote comes from a good place in people’s hearts but new research into the real costs of paper use has come out in favour of using more paper, as long as it’s ethically sourced and disposed of.

Information released by the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa points out that paper in this country is sourced from the wood of plantation grown trees, recycled paper or bagasse (sugar cane fibre).

Plantations actually store carbon and so have many environmental benefits. Furthermore, fibre is not sourced from the wood of rainforests, indigenous or boreal trees. In fact, South Africa’s timber plantations, used for pulp, paper and furniture, lock up 900 million tonnes of CO2 each year, according to Forestry South Africa, resulting in a massive contribution to the fight against climate change.

So what about vehicles and equipment emissions used in timber processing? Huge steps are being made within South Africa’s forestry sector to mitigate pollution from forestry machines and processing. In fact the drive has been so strong that paper mills are coming out as leaders in environmental stewardship: through the use of renewable biomass based energy, the industry has avoided using 1,3 million tons of fossil fuel, including oil, coal and gas annually.

In addition, forestry is one of South Africa’s strongest economic drivers, creating about 150 000 jobs (mainly in rural areas) and contributing significantly to GDP.

Now those statistics do come from industry. So it’s fair to ask what environmentalists say. Environmentalists concur, paper is the way to go. According to Dr Patrick More, Greenpeace cofounder, “Forestry is the most sustainable of all the primary industries that provide us with energy and materials. To address climate change, we need to use more wood, not less. Using wood send signals to the market place to grow more trees.”

So go ahead, print this news story, stick it on your office wall and tell your friends: print more emails, and read more paper-based books and magazines – also enjoy that pine bookcase from IKEA!

For more information go to @PaperRocks_SA