Trees – The Source of Wood and Paper
Both wood and paper are obtained from a single source – trees. Unfortunately, millions of trees are cut down every year to meet the demand for wood and paper which has a devastating effect on the local ecosystems as well as global climate. Forests are often described as the lungs of the Earth because the trees “breathe in” carbon dioxide and other air pollutants and “breathe out” pure oxygen. All plants produce oxygen while removing air pollutants from the atmosphere including grass, however, their effect cannot compare to that of forests.
In addition to purifying the air, forests also play an important role in the Earth’s climate. Since trees remove huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they help minimize the green house effect. They also have a major impact on local climate and biodiversity by providing a habitat to wildlife, reducing soil erosion, increasing the amount of rainfall, etc. Tree harvesting for wood and paper therefore poses a serious environmental challenge.
The awareness of the importance of forests for the global climate and local ecosystems has increased dramatically over the last few decades. Thus sustainable forest management practices which have a minimal effect on environmental, economic and social values are adopted by more and more countries and wood industries. Sustainable forest management covers a wide range of economically feasible yet environmentally friendly practices but they almost always foresee tree re-planting.
To promote sustainable forest management, consumers should choose wood products which are certified sustainable and health products which are in abundance and harvested from non endangered trees. Despite the rising awareness of the importance of responsible tree harvesting, deforestation remains a major problem worldwide especially in the developing countries. Most of certified wood originates from Europe and North America.
In addition to choosing certified wood, consumers can also help minimize environmental challenges related to tree harvesting by choosing reclaimed over newly harvested wood. Garden Furniture from reclaimed wood is taken from old wooden structures which means that not a single tree has been cut down to make furniture, flooring and other wood products from reclaimed wood. And despite the fact that reclaimed wood is often decades old, it is not inferior to newly cut wood. On the contrary, it is exceptionally strong and durable and has been used to build cottages, while its aged look and history make it a very popular alternative to vintage and antique furniture.
As already mentioned earlier, trees are also the source of paper which is used in huge quantities worldwide. Paper can also be made from leftovers in the wood industry but as much as 35 percent of all trees are cut down to make paper. This percentage, however, could easily be lowered by paper recycling. But this requires a cooperation from everyone. Firstly, old newspapers, magazines, office paper and other used but clean paper products should be separated from the rest of the waste and discarded in recycling bins for paper at the nearest recycling centre. And the second way to help save the trees is to choose products made of recycled paper. 1 tonne of recycled paper saves as many as 17 trees. Every person can save more than 3 trees every year by waste sorting alone.