By Ana Toepel and Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, (originally run on UCSF’s Sustainability Website)

When you load a ream of paper into the copy machine, you might not realize the environmental impacts your choice of paper could have. Now there is a new choice to consider: TreeZero, a tree-free paper made from sugar cane, which provides a carbon neutral paper option at an affordable price.

Carbon Footprint of Paper

The paper industry has a significant impact on the climate from deforestation to greenhouse gas emissions to the extensive use of water and energy. Timber harvesting for papermaking accounts for 37% of the destruction of forests, which are critical to storing carbon and cleaning the air. According to the Environmental Paper Network’s paper calculator tool, one ton of virgin paper requires 24 trees and produces 5,601 pounds of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, while one ton of 100% recycled content paper uses 0 trees and produces 3,533 pounds of GHG emissions (see table below):

Tree-Free Paper

TreeZero paper is made from 100% bagasse, the sugar cane waste fiber leftover from sugar production. It is 100% recycled, turning an industrial waste that would be incinerated or landfilled into a useful product. Something to note is the difference between PCW and this type of recycled paper. PCW paper comes from consumer products that have served their use and then have been recycled after being diverted from the waste stream. Tree-free paper is considered “pre-consumer” or “post-industrial” waste, because it is generated from waste created during the production process. It can also be recycled after use along with other paper, becoming PCW paper in a future life.

According to Jeffrey Foote, Executive Vice President of TreeZero, use of TreeZero paper provides a premium quality paper designed to reduce the impacts of using paper. Foote added that sugarcane’s strong, long fibers make for a high-quality paper product with reduced jamming and dust build-up in equipment. UCSF Documents and Media recently switched to using TreeZero paper; it thoroughly tested the paper in all their equipment to ensure it worked well. So far there have been no complaints about the paper from customers.

A major benefit to the purchase of TreeZero paper is that it is carbon neutral.

According to Foote, each ton of tree-free paper produced generates about one ton of carbon emissions, and they’ve done an assessment to make sure this number includes all stages in the product’s life cycle. All emissions are offset through a partnership with Wildlife Works, which conserves forests in Africa by providing job alternatives to deforestation. “TreeZero provides a model for a circular economy, where the customers, the business, and the communities where forests are threatened receive value,” shared Foote.

Make Your Paper Choice Sustainable

If you are responsible for purchasing paper for your office, it is easy and affordable to purchase a tree-free option:

    • TreeZero Paper: TreeZero paper is available at Office Depot and Staples. Go HERE for details on where and how to purchase the paper.

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