Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is saving paper, saving trees?

I head an employee-driven CSR team in my company in India. I get numerous suggestions about saving paper by replacing paper cups with ceramic mugs and re-using papers printed on one-side for "personal" print-outs.

Though I don't oppose these ideas, I have my reservations about their efficacy. Following are the questions that have surfaced to my mind repeatedly.

- Trees cut for making papers have to be replanted because, we will run out of papers otherwise. We have no idea about the number of trees we are losing because of making papers. We also don't seem to be running out of papers. So, in the end we don't know if we are really causing a significant depletion of trees. May be we are, but is there data?

- The only way to cut lesser trees without compromising the supply of paper is to recycle paper. India seems to have a defunct system of recycling wastes. If we are indeed degrading environment by cutting a lot of trees, it is possible that this trend can be more significantly minimized by putting a system in place that recycles most of the paper wastes when compared to small initiatives in individual companies to save papers.

Of course we are better off taking these small initiatives irrespective of the status of recycling, but my concern is, we have no way to measure how many trees we end up saving. What if the contribution of 100 companies with an average of 100 employees actually comes to saving 5% of trees, while setting up a recycling plant that can recycle paper in the neighborhood (companies, homes, schools any and building where paper is used) can reduce the number of trees cut of paper by 50%?

Simply put, how can one make this initiative measurable? Is there a comprehensive and accepted research that can answer my questions?

1 comment:

Anand said...

badri, I think you are comparing two different entities - conservation of resources and renewable resources. Reducing the usage of paper or finding alternate methods is a step towards conserving the natural resources. Whereas recycling of paper helps reduce the consumption of natural resources. But both helps the improve the environment. We cannot try to create a lake with a single drop of water. As long as people pitch in their effort, it will automatically result in the desired effect.

For more information on the economics of being environmentally conscious, visit the following link:

and click on the tab that says "webcast". It has a list of videos that was broadcast in PBS. All are excellent videos and very informative.