Work Smarter: Your Guide to Paper and Sustainability

1000 paper cranes

With consumers’ growing awareness of sustainability issues, manufacturers have sharpened their focus on delivering products and services that deliver social, economic and environmental sustainability value. But it might surprise you to know that these values have been a part of the paper industry for decades, and that paper companies have consistently led the way toward greater transparency and accountability when it comes to sustainability.

In general, paper is recyclable and derived from renewable resources. In many countries worldwide, paper enjoys a 60 to 70 percent recovery rate, the best among all recyclable materials – the U.S. is slightly above average at just over 63 percent. Thanks to responsible forestry management practices and standards, there are actually more trees in the U.S. today than there were 50 years ago.

With the recent Colorado wildfires top of mind for many readers, it might surprise you to learn that the total forest area consumed by wildfire each year has fallen more than 90 percent since 1900, partly due to a more responsible timber industry. Where other industries have been playing catch-up in their drive toward more sustainable business practices, the paper industry has long been on the leading edge of more thoughtful production, use and recovery of paper products.

In this series of articles, we will look at the life cycle of office paper and how – at every stage of the production, distribution and recovery process – sustainability is a top priority. From forest management practices and certification to responsible use and office recovery, the journey of a sheet of paper is filled with “choices”.

During the next several weeks, TriplePundit will share news and insights as we explore paper as a responsible medium for communication, with help from third-party experts who have spent decades researching and/or implementing sustainability-minded business practices throughout the paper industry.

If you have questions or comments about sustainability and paper, please share them in the comments field below or email our editors at This series was developed in partnership with CHOICES – An Environment for Good Ideas™ brought to you by Boise®. Click here to learn more about CHOICES.

[Image credit: Kevin H, Flickr]

3 responses

  1. Very curious that the Paper Industry, Boise, is writing
    this piece for Triple Bottom Line. I agree that the forest industry and paper
    industry have made great strides towards sustainability, but I would like to
    know what metrics are being used to calculate the ratio of trees today vs. 50
    years ago?  What is the loss of old
    growth vs. trees planting for tree harvesting, types of trees – biodiversity,
    where the trees are – forests vs. landscaped hardscapes? Are we importing more
    wood products from oversees? It is wonderful that FSC and other organizations
    have made progress in sustainably managing our forests, but I think we need
    more transparency in our metrics before we laud the timber and paper industries
    too loudly.

  2. The statistic you mentioned is from a 2000 report by the North American Forest Commission and refers to forest acreage and accounts for all forested areas in the U.S. As for biodiversity, it’s true that old-growth forests have more diverse animal species – unfortunately, you simply can’t undo 200+ years of deforestation overnight when it comes to animal habitat. You can read the NAFC report (and subsequent reports) here –

  3. Glad to see Boise taking on these issues.  But I also take issue with the statement about “more trees today than 50 years ago” ..that’s actually pretty meaningless.

    There is a lot less wilderness today than there was 50 years ago, and therefore a lot less of the ecosystem services that such places provide.  That’s a much more important stat.  Tree farms are not intact ecosystems, even if a few animals live there.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to hate on Boise, or any other paper company, anyone who uses paper and lumber (ie, everyone) is part of this system, but it would be really neat to hear what a company is doing to preserve real ecosystems, while at the same time properly managing their tree farms and so on.  Paper isn’t going anywhere, we just have to be wiser about how we source and use it.

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