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Editor's Views: It's a myth that newspapers are bad for trees, forests

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Scott Angus
April 26, 2014

Buy a newspaper. Save a tree.

Say what?

Yes, that's right, and it's an enlightening message to spread so close to Earth Day.

Through the years, I've heard many people say they don't want the printed newspaper because they don't want to kill trees.

Good intentions. Bad logic.

The idea that printing newspapers is bad for trees and the environment is a myth.

In fact, buying newspapers creates a market for paper, and that market—among others—helps sustain the forests that provide the trees for the lumber and paper industries.

Trees are a renewable resource, and it wouldn't be smart for companies that produce lumber and paper to deplete their supplies. In fact, according to the Printing Industries of America's Value of Print flipbook, private landowners in this country plant about 4 million trees every day, which is three to four times more than they harvest.

The trees they do harvest and sell give them the income they need to renew and manage their forests and the  financial incentive to keep doing so.

“Without the income, landowners face economic pressures to convert forestland to other uses, including growing other crops that are more profitable or selling the land for development,” the book says. “In both cases, the forest is removed forever.”

Another group, the American Forest and Paper Association, explains it this way:

“Trees are grown in managed forestlands for the purpose of manufacturing paper and wood products. Without a regular harvesting of trees to manufacture products, managed forestlands would likely be sold or used for other purposes such as development or agriculture—purposes that would not include the consistent replanting of trees.”

The Gazette buys its paper from several companies, but our primary supplier is Alberta Newsprint, based in Whitecourt, Alberta, in Canada. Like all of our suppliers, it is certified for its sustainability practices.

Alberta Newsprint belongs to the Alberta Forest Products Association, which is the common voice of the forest industry in Alberta. The association has developed an industry audit based on principles that ensure environmental stewardship. For example:

“Member companies will ensure that harvest levels do not exceed the capacity of the forest, that all harvested areas are reforested, and that harvest and reforestation methods foster a healthy new forest, supporting a diversity of species.”

So what about deforestation? Isn't that an issue that we all should be concerned about?

Absolutely, but it's primarily a problem in undeveloped countries, where forests don't produce revenue—or at least enough revenue—and are destroyed to make way for agriculture or development. Rainforests are especially susceptible, and some experts have predicted that tropical forests could be gone by the middle of the century.

The other environmental element to consider with printed newspapers is recycling. The vast majority of newsprint is recycled several times and used in many ways, including more newspapers, cardboard boxes and blown insulation. Ultimately, when it has already been recycled a few times, much of it ends up as fuel pellets.

In fact, the demand for recycled material has never been higher. That's largely because the Chinese put tons of it on ships heading home after they drop off goods in America.

I remember as a child seeing newspapers blowing in the dump when my dad and I dropped off our trash each Saturday. You won't see that today. Old newspapers get used again and again.

So if you don't want the printed Gazette, that's a personal choice. I don't think it's a wise one, unless you get your news at gazettextra.com, but it's yours nonetheless. Just don't justify it by saying you're saving trees.

Scott W. Angus is editor of The Gazette and vice president of news for Bliss Communications. His email is sangus@gazettextra.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangus_.



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