I am delighted to introduce the first guest post on Paper, Pens and Ink! It's Millie from over at Planet Millie, who is part of the Philofaxy All Stars Blogging Team.
This year is the International Year of Forests. What does that mean for the paper that you use every day?
Paper is most commonly manufactured from trees (although there is a small market for papers made from animal dung, fruits and other items). Many people automatically assume that this is very bad for the environment. Images pop into mind of vast swathes of rainforest chopped down by large corporations who care nothing for either the ecosystems or the livelihoods they're destroying. The reality is very different.
11% of the timber produced throughout the world at present is used to make paper (the FAO monitor forestry across the world, on behalf of the UN). Whilst a percentage of timber for paper production is likely coming from illegal sources, the biggest threat to rainforests is land clearance and felling for wood-fuel.
If your paper was manufactured in Western Europe using Western European materials you can be fairly certain that it was made sustainably due to EU and state legislation, but internationally there are several different accreditation schemes for paper.
The most popular certificate for timber products is the FSC scheme: any timber product carrying this logo is guaranteed to have been produced ethically and sustainably. This is a worldwide scheme, so you can find these products internationally. Each certificate has a number so that you can follow the production of your item, thus ensuring accountability at each step of the process (this is called the Chain of Custody). Other certificates include PEFC certificates and World Land Trust certificates (these certificates are interesting because they promise carbon "balanced" paper!).
Some companies do not openly publicise their certification, but a quick look through their small print will show that they are signed up to codes of practice (examples here include Clairefontaine, who get their timber from PEFC certified woods and Moleskine, who are FSC-certified. Neither company publishes their accreditation logo on their notebooks).
Whilst it's not always necessary to use paper made from virgin fibre (i.e. paper that has no recycled content), anyone doing so should not feel guilty. If there was not a market for paper products, the timber industry would be considerably smaller than it currently is (11% smaller!). There would be no demand to manage these woods sustainably and many would likely be felled to make way for new developments. Whilst it seems counter-intuitive, the demand for timber-based products ensures that many woods are kept as working woods, and where products carry certification you can rest easy that you are supporting the environment. Wood-based products are usually good for the environment - sustainably-managed forests absorb carbon dioxide, support an ecosystem, can be used to manage flooding and wind damage, clean the air of pollutants and give us something pretty to enjoy!
Personally, I see the use of paper in the 21st century as very much in keeping with the International Year of Forests. I use certified notebooks and I'm happy knowing that I'm supporting sustainable forestry whilst meeting my own needs. I try not to waste paper and always recycle it when I'm finished, and so as a consumer I carry on the cycle of sustainable paper production. The trees are happy and I am happy, and you should be happy too!