From production to disposal, paper contributes to the dangerous impacts of climate change. Paper production is recorded as the fourth largest industrial source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Additionally, paper products account for over one quarter of all solid waste in US landfills, where it decomposes and releases toxic methane gas into the atmosphere. Methane gas has over 23 times the heat trapping power of carbon dioxide.
The EPA states that recycling one ton of paper saves 3.3 cubic yards of solid waste from entering a landfill – meaning fewer methane emissions. Every ton of 100% recycled copy paper saves 17 million BTUs from being used in making virgin paper…that’s enough to power the average home for over two months!
According to the US Census, there are almost 67 million people with higher education degrees across the country, with over 3 million new graduates joining alumni associations every year. Alumni magazines are published on average four times a year, and often distributed to nearly half a million recipients per issue. This can add up to significant environmental impacts, such as wasting enough energy to power a small town for an entire year. One of the main ways universities and colleges stay in touch with their alumni is through magazines. While many institutes for higher learning are leading the charge for sustainability in the classroom, their paper use is stuck in the dark ages.
If all colleges used 100% recycled paper for their alumni publications, this could save up to:
- The wood equivalent of 1,000,000 trees
- 90,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions
- Enough water to fill over 700 Olympic-sized swimming pools
- Over 16,000 tons of solid waste from new paper production
- Commit to begin using a minimum of 30% recycled content paper in alumni magazines, with a plan to increase. Form a timeline for all paper transitions and meet those deadlines.
- For the virgin paper needed, only use fiber sustainably managed from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests.
- Look for ways to make continual improvement of paper use practices, including paper reduction.
Many colleges are successfully using high content recycled paper for their alumni magazines. If Washington State University
, Baylor University
, Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, and other magazines can use recycled paper, your college can, too! (We’re proud to report that at Green America all of our publications and printed materials are on 100% post-consumer recycled paper.)
Like many people, you might see the word “Recycled” on a product and assume that it’s a high quality recycled product. Unfortunately, the product can contain anywhere from 1% recycled content all the way to 100%. Look for any indication of the percentage of recycled content on the product package, such as 30% post-consumer recycled paper. Also, be conscious of the terms
“recyclable” or “please recycle”. While these mean that the product CAN be recycled, they do not signal that there is any recycled content in the product.Certification
There are a few different certifications to look for when buying a paper product. We advise seeking out the FSC seal (Forest Stewardship Council), a certification program that ensures products are made with as little impact to the environment and nearby communities as possible. If the product you are buying has non-recycled fibers in it, make sure it is FSC.Learn more here.
In order to achieve our ultimate goal of preserving one million trees each year, we are urging universities across the country to take the Better Paper Commitment.
We are starting with the following schools:
- Arizona State University
- Boston University
- Brigham Young University
- Indiana State University
- New York University
- Northeastern University
- Ohio State University
- Stanford University
- Texas A&M University
- University of Maryland
That’s great! If you are an alumnus, staff person, or have another connection to the above universities, please reach out to us by clicking here
and emailing us!
Please share this page with your friends and family to help us get the word out about the Better Paper Commitment. Make sure to tag us @Green America if you share on social media!
The “One Million Trees” campaign is led by Green America, a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1982. Green America’s mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Green America’s Better Paper Project has 15 years of experience guiding publishers to more sustainable paper choices for magazines. This goal of increasing the demand for recycled paper offers huge relief to endangered forest areas, curbs the publishing industry's climate change impacts, and lessens pollution of nearby communities through new paper production.
If you would like to support the campaign or participate in events please email Beth Porter, program director, at bporter@ greenamerica.org
. We would love to hear from you!
More information on One Million Trees