How often do we stop and think about where our paper comes from?

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis refers specifically to our use of paper, citing it as an example of a problem linked to our “throwaway culture”. He writes, “Most of the paper we produce is thrown away and not recycled … We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them” (Laudato Si’ #22).

Pope Francis is right to be concerned. In 2007-2008 Clean Up Australia reported that we used 4,250,000 tonnes of paper and of that we sent 1.9 million tonnes to landfill. Trees are the main resource in paper production. A single tonne of paper consumes approximately 20 full-grown trees while recycling 1 tonne of paper saves 13 trees.

Here’s one point to ponder: 15% of deforestation is due to toilet paper alone.

In Indonesia deforestation has roughly doubled over the last decade—and most of that increase is due to the demand for pulp to make paper, as well as palm oil production.

There are some simple things you can do to reduce your paper usage and minimize your personal impact.

Nine ways you can reduce the impact of your paper consumption:

  1. Use 100% recycled toilet paper. Even better, purchase your toilet paper from a company like ‘Who Gives a Crap’ whose business model is based on Corporate Social Responsibility.

  2. Use 100% recycled paper for printing, instead of paper made from virgin forests.

  3. Reuse gift bags and wrapping paper or wrap gifts in nice tea towels or cloth.

  4. Find a substitute for paper towel use. A great reuse of old towels, sheets or clothes is to cut them into squares, fold them and have them under the sink ready to go. They can then be thrown in to the washing machine to reuse again!

  5. Use real dinnerware for picnics and parties, not paper (or plastic) plates and bowls.

  6. Use a reusable coffee cup for takeaway.

  7. When printing, use both sides of the paper.

  8. Say ‘No’ to junk mail – put a sign on your letter box for ‘addressed mail only’.

  9. Use a handkerchief instead of tissues.