My professor, Dr. Ed Shaughnessy, brought up an interesting point about paper usage and I decided to share it here because I think it’s interesting.
- Trees take CO2 out of the air and fix it into carbon/wood.
- Paper stores carbon/wood in a human-useable form.
- New trees can grow where the old ones were cut down for paper.
- Paper that’s thrown away gets buried in the earth.
Therefore: wasting paper is actually good for the environment
Issues with the theory
- paper requires energy to process which probably comes from coal
- buried paper gets decomposed by microbes after not too long resulting in the carbon going back into the atmosphere as CO2
- trees felled for paper are not always replaced by new trees
- trees felled for paper would otherwise have strengthened the ecosystem and eventually decomposed like paper anyway
- trees felled for paper would perhaps not decompose as easily creating more carbon stores than paper would
I think, if anything, the theory illustrates that the tree-killing we’ve been led to believe about paper usage is not as shallow as it seems since tree-killing is not actually inherently bad. Nonetheless, I think the energy associated with making paper is the biggest contributor to environmental damage since the paper life cycle would otherwise be carbon neutral in a sense. The added damage of disrupting ecosystems for lumber harvesting is also pretty bad…
In conclusion, I will still try to be somewhat efficient with my paper usage within reason, but I will no longer be so adamant about paper recycling since that seems questionable in terms of saving the environment.