Well, almost. Non-wood materials make the best paper, which includes straw from corn and rye. Read on …
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Since 1995, Spiffy Press has supported Tree People, an environmental nonprofit that unites the power of trees, people and technology to grow a sustainable future for Los Angeles.
Tree-free paper is far from an environmental fad. In fact, up until the 1850s, cotton rags and non-wood plants were the dominant sources of fiber used for paper making. That situation changed rapidly, however, in the late 1800s with the development of wood pulping technologies that took advantage of the vast forest resources in the U.S.
Today, nearly all of the virgin paper produced in the U.S. is made from wood fiber derived from trees. Although recovered paper makes up a significant—and growing—percentage of the fiber used to make paper in the U.S. (36.5 percent in 1998), wood fiber from trees harvested specifically for paper-making still accounts for nearly 50 percent of the total fiber used for paper making in the U.S.
Tree-free papers offer an environmentally preferable alternative to tree-based papers:
- Plant sources of tree-free fibers re-grow rapidly and the harvesting of the plants does not disrupt natural ecosystems.
- Processing of tree-free fibers to produce pulp for paper-making requires considerably less energy and chemical input than does the processing of wood-based fibers.
- Tree-free papers are gaining increased attention with growing restrictions on timber harvesting, and increasing concerns to preserve forests and reduce pollution from virgin wood pulp production.
Tree-free papers are produced from one of two sources:
- Crops grown specifically for paper making (usually annuals, such as kenaf or hemp).
- Residues from agricultural crops (such as straw from rice, wheat, and rye).
Source: California Integrated Waste Management Board
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Recycled paper. Big savings from small gestures.
In the early 1970s, an EPA study for Congress concluded that using one ton of 100% recycled paper saves 4,100 kwh of energy (enough to power the average home for six months) and 7,000 gallons of water. It also keeps more than 60 pounds of pollution out of the air. Paper mills have become much more efficient since that time, but recycling paper still results in far less resource and environmental demand than making virgin paper.
That one ton of recycled paper also saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space, which is increasingly important as many local landfills near their capacity. Because size, height and usable parts of trees vary, it is hard to estimate exactly how many trees go into making a ton of recycled paper, but paper industry representatives have estimated that one ton of recycled paper saves approximately 17 trees.
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