Making Paper Uses A Lot Of Non-Renewable Energy And Has A High Carbon Footprint


Most Energy Used Is Renewable. Carbon Intensity Is Surprisingly Low

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The Myth: Making Paper Uses A Lot Of Non-Renewable Energy And Has A High Carbon Footprint

With 1.1% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, the pulp, paper and print is one of the lowest industrial emitters.‚Äč
World Resources Institute, 2013

The European Paper Industry has reduced the CO2 emissions per tonne of paper produced by 40% since 1990.
Cepi Sustainability Report, 2011, Page 41

On average it takes 500 kilowatt hours (Kwh) to produce 200kg of paper; the average consumption per head in Europe. This is comparable to driving an average family car 600 miles (6).

The paper industry is the biggest user of renewable, low carbon energy and 54% (5) of the energy used in European paper making is biomass based - more than in any other sector.
Recyclable paper is made from wood, a renewable carbon storing resource.

Industry research indicates that mail comprises 0.1% of total household CO2 emissions in Europe. The 14 kg of CO2 emitted is the equivalent of:

  • One 70 km car journey
  • Five Cheeseburgers
  • Nine litres of milk
  • 6.6 minutes of transatlantic flight

EMIP, The Facts Of Our Value Chain, 2008, Page 8-10

Reading a newspaper can consume 20% less carbon than viewing news online.
Swedish Royal Institute for Technology, Moberg et al, 2007, Page 85

And in a multimedia world, responsibly sourced print and paper may be the most sustainable way to communicate.
Alternative media has its own impact too:

  • One email with 400k attachment sent to 20 people, is equivalent to burning 100w light bulb for 20 minutes.(7)
  • 100 searches on Google is equivalent to ironing a shirt, which is equivalent to 20g CO2.(8)
  • The average energy consumption on the level of a typical Google user is about 180-watts-hours a month, or the equivalent of running a 60-watt light bulb for three hours.(9)
  • E-waste is fast growing and can be toxic.

(5) Cepi Sustainability Report, 2011, Page 41
(6) Paper and the environment, ATS Consulting, August, 2007
(7) BBC, Costing the earth, Global Warming, April 2009
(8) Google Green, 2013
(9) New York Times, September 2011