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Choosing alternative or "tree-free" paper can help limit the number of trees that are cut down each year to make paper and help you avoid the pollution and energy use linked to conventional paper production.

Find it! Alternative paper

Choosing alternative paper helps you go green because...

  • Alternative paper is made from rapidly renewable plants or other sources, so no trees need to be cut down.
  • The process of producing paper from these sources requires less energy and chemicals than conventional wood-based paper.

Individually, Americans go through hundreds of pounds of paper each year. As a nation, this added up to almost 85 million tons of paper and paper products in 2005.[1] In the United States alone, paper is used to publish more than 2 billion books, 350 million magazines, and 24 billion newspapers annually.[2] Though the pulp and paper industry has made great strides over the past 20 years, making paper (particularly products from virgin trees) still results in significant ecological harm to the planet. In addition to tree loss, the virgin timber-based pulp and paper industry is the third greatest industrial emitter of global warming pollution, with carbon dioxide emissions projected to double by 2020.[3] In addition, paper production is responsible for about a fifth of the total wood harvest worldwide, and about 93 percent of today's paper comes from virgin trees.[4]

A good alternative is paper made from a variety of other materials, the most prominent being agricultural crops. That's because these fiber sources grow rapidly, harvesting is much gentler to ecosystems than foresting, and fiber processing requires less energy and chemicals compared to tree fibers. Crops grown specifically for paper-making include kenaf, hemp, jute, and flax. Residues from agricultural crops, such as sugar cane husk and the straws left over from wheat, rye, oats, rice, and barley, are also used to make tree-free papers, as are cotton, plastics, and even elephant and panda dung.

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