Paper saving is a high priority of the Environmental Paper Network. Reducing paper consumption is the first goal of our Global Paper Vision, and the best way to reduce the negative environmental and social impacts that paper can cause.
Many of our member organisations are campaigning against wasteful paper use, from unwanted catalogues to packaging. One common focus is the icon of the throwaway society – paper cups. We recently launched our ‘Cupifesto’ – a manifesto for a world without throwaway cups – on an international day of action involving our members in Australia, China, Germany, Finland, France, UK and the USA. Read more….
Between 2007 and 2013 we ran a project in the UK called ‘Shrink Paper’, which focused on some of the biggest paper consumers in society, including magazine publishers, catalogue retailers, supermarkets, banks and finance companies, universities and government departments. The project challenged them to set targets to cut their paper use by half, and we produced a scorecard of how they performed. We also held seminars and webinars to promote paper efficiency.
Why do we need to save paper?
Since the 1960s, world consumption of paper has quadrupled and use of printing paper has increased six-fold. Just 10% of the world’s population (western Europe and north America) consumes more than 50% of the world’s paper. Europeans and Americans use 6 times as much paper as the world average. (Read more shocking paper facts here…)
Our paper consumption is the major driver of the forestry industry: almost half of the trees cut commercially around the world end up in paper products. Yet much of this paper use is wasteful and unnecessary and some of it is linked to human rights abuses, forest destruction, pollution and climate change emissions.
Paper use has increased most in the computer age despite technological advances like electronic communication, which should offer good alternatives. A staggering 45% of office-printouts end up in the bin by the end of the day they are printed: this isn’t just a waste of trees, it’s a huge waste of money.
It’s also unfair. The average European or American uses more paper in a day than people in poor countries get access to each year. If we want the many benefits of paper – books and education, information sharing and democracy, sanitation and safe food – to be available to everyone in the world without increasing production to unsustainable levels, it is up to people in wealthy societies to reduce wasteful paper use.
We do not advocate the use of alternative materials to paper, unless they are proven to have a smaller ecological footprint, and we encourage all paper users to work towards all the goals in our vision.
What you can do
Saving paper has so many benefits: you save money, you feel good and you tread more lightly on the earth. We encourage you to support the paper saving campaigns by our member organisations. Read more about these here.
Here on our website we draw together information, case studies, advice and inspiration to make it easier for people in all walks of society to cut wasteful paper use. See our toolkit here.