Greenwashing: Sustainably Sourced Wood and Paper Products

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A major part of our footprint and impact comes from what materials we choose to consume and how we consume them, or how much.🍽

🧸Different materials and different products have their own various footprints. Some emit more carbon in the process while others may have more of a water footprint.

🌲Because trees can grow back and also sequester carbon instead of emitting it in production, many believe them to be sustainable and renewable. 

If products made from trees are so sustainable, why is there a need to label them as “sustainably sourced”?


☀️There has been a lot of new awareness about the actual impact of wood and paper products.

🌳Many are beginning to realize that while trees can grow back, it will take sometimes a hundred years to get even close to how the forest once was. Many logging companies to this day don’t replant trees, thus leaving the land stripped and bare.🪓

Trees clean our air, provide oxygen, and store carbon naturally. So cutting them down has become a big problem when trying to combat climate change and protect the natural world. 

What is “sustainably sourced” wood?


The answer to this problem has been to replant trees in a monoculture style. 🌾Much like farming corn or wheat or any other monoculture crop, this is far from what nature prefers, and ultimately is not sustainable.

True sustainably managed forests would look more like cutting trees here and there and therefore allowing small trees more light to take their place. Or planting new ones if there aren't any already sprouting up.🌱

It may be difficult to run a business that way, but maybe that is how it is intended to be.

While there are companies who cut trees down and replant in a very natural and sustainable way, most companies clear cut land, replant one species of tree, and label it as “sustainably sourced or managed.”

The problem with this

🌽Much like monoculture-ed agriculture, the soil will be depleted and the biodiversity of species will be minimal.

This isn’t to say that forestry departments and logging companies are trying to purposely harm the planet.🌎But if the understanding is simply “we need trees” or the only goal is to sequester carbon, why wouldn’t we just plant trees in this way?

The reality is that if we want to have a healthy, fruitful, and diverse planet then we must return these areas back to how they were as nature intended. As forests rather than tree farms.

By labeling products as sustainably sourced, this not only leads us to believe that we are maintaining forests as they are meant to be, but this belief makes us feel less guilty about buying a lot of products. But I suppose that is what greenwashing is all about anyways. 

What can we do about this?

Simplify


The simplest way to not buy products which aren’t sourced very sustainably is to just buy less stuff.

Something like plastic could be made from corn or sugar cane, which is for sure better, but it still has a footprint.👣 Along those same lines, a wood or paper product could be made from very well managed forests. But at almost eight billion people, we must ask ourselves if even that is sustainable or not.

📊There is probably a specific amount at which we can consume and still replenish everything we take when at a specific population, but at the very least we should be getting rid of the excess and unnecessary.

We can also buy less by switching to more zero waste options. A perfect example is dropping tissues or kleenex and switching to LastTissue instead. LastTissue is  reusable and sourced from cotton instead of trees.

Not only will this bring more meaning to our lives by living simply, but it will help others, as well as the planet...simply live.

Certify


🏅Like other products, we can rely on specific certifications to look for in wood or paper products. For the company as a whole, look for B corporations, 1% for the planet, and others found in our previous blog post.

There is a specific certification for sustainable forestry given by the FSC or Forestry Stewardship Council. This organization has taken a lot of criticism for having too lenient requirements and not being active enough in enforcement or certification suspension. So take this certification with a grain of salt.🧂

Typically, if a business as a whole is certified through the above list, this means they hopefully looked into the sustainability of lumber sourcing for their products. Or were required to do so. 


🌲Still, the state of timber certifications hasn’t been that great for quite some time. And if a certification were to require true sustainable and eco centric harvesting, we may be paying far more for our wood and paper products.📝 Which makes requirements difficult to be strict.  

Because right now, we are simply not paying the true cost of these things, but will instead, pay for them later in environmental degradation.⏳

But maybe cheap and environmentally degrading products is what has allowed us to over consume on the levels we currently do. And when we begin to pay for (or simply think about) the real cost of things, only then will we consume less. 🙏🏼

Written by Aaron Burr 

A writer dedicated to working solely with companies on a mission to help the earth and people on it.