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--Lake Superior:
Story and Spirit

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Discovering
the Penokees

Lake Superior:
Story and Spirit

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Wild Lake Michigan

The Northern Lights: Lighthouses of the Upper Great Lakes

 

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PAPER -- Making Responsible Choices
Why use chlorine-free paper?

Chlorine bleaching paper mills emit many persistent toxic chemicals, including dioxins and hundreds of other organochlorines, lead, arsenic, mercury, phenols, etc. Once in the environment, persistent toxic chemicals do not go away. They are picked up by the life system in the Great Lakes and bioaccumulate (concentrate) as much as 25 million times as they are passed up the food chain to fish-eating birds, and mammals (including humans). We pass these pollutants to our children before birth, when they are most susceptible to the dangerous effects: reproductive abnormalities, learning deficits, cancer, and many others.

The 1978 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States called for zero discharge of persistent toxic substances. The International Joint Commission has called for a careful, gradual sunsetting of chlorine feedstocks in industrial use. Using chlorine free paper means not adding dioxins and other poisonous organochlorines, which are dangerous in even minute quantities, to an already stressed ecosystem.

Alternatives to chlorine bleached paper are available right now, and in use throughout the world. "Totally chlorine-free (TCF) and processed chlorine-free (PCF) paper are rapidly displacing chlorine-bleached paper in Europe. TCF paper is made from totally chorine-free virgin pulp, with no chlorine or chlorine compounds used as bleaching agents. PCF paper has a recycled content that has not been re-bleached with chlorine, and any virgin pulp used is totally chlorine-free." (quote from Lake Superior: Story and Spirit ) In publishing Lake Superior: Story and Spirit, we chose PCF paper--an active decision to not participate in adding persistent toxic chemicals to our environment, and to demonstrate that environmentally responsible decisions can be made without sacrificing quality. Many businesses and consumers are making these kinds of decisions every day.

What can you do?

When purchasing paper products, request chlorine-free brands (specifically PCF or TCF). Think about the paper items you use that do not really need to be white--paper plates and cups, paper towels, toilet paper, even feminine hygiene products. Avoid using these bleached paper products whenever possible, and request non-bleached brands (yes, they are available). Consumer demands drive many business decisions, such as what products suppliers carry.

Better yet, whenever possible use products made from "tree-free" materials.

Why avoid using trees to make paper?

Trees benefit us in countless ways: oxygen production, carbon dioxide absorption (helps reduce global warming), soil replenishment and erosion control, air pollution reduction, fish and wildlife protection, etc. Clear-cutting and intensive forest "management", with its monoculture fiber farms, is one of the lowest yield uses a society can make of its forests. In the U.S., "the greatest volume of 'harvested' trees go to pulp mills, is exported as 'roundwood' or minimally processed logs, or goes to chipboard. These minimal 'value added' products create relatively few jobs. In 1991 the United States and Canada ranked first and third respectively in the export of minimal value, low job-producing 'roundwood.'" (quote from Lake Superior: Story and Spirit )

But what about jobs and the economy?

The Worldwatch Institute’s Saving the Forests: What Will It Take? quotes data from Catherine Mater, vice president of Mater Engineering Ltd.: "In the United States, for example, logging 1 million board feet of timber yields about 3 jobs. Milling it into lumber generates 20 jobs. And crafting it into furniture creates 80 jobs. With each step up the processing chain, each job requires less stuff and more skill. The earth suffers less, and livelihoods become more secure."

Clearcutting a forest and grinding the trees into pulp is a waste of a forest, and supports relatively few jobs. Selective forestry that promotes diverse forests is labor intensive, and thus creates jobs--and it preserves multiple uses of our forests.

Forests are more valuable to our economy intact and standing than logged and hauled away. According to the April 1998 Worldwatch Paper, Taking a Stand: Cultivating a New Relationship with the World's Forests:
"U.S. National Forests are currently managed primarily for timber supply, despite the fact that logging adds only 76,000 jobs and $3.5 billion to the GDP (gross domestic product) while recreational use of the national forests generates nearly 2.6 million jobs and adds $97.8 billion to the GDP.…In the southeast United States, a recent study found that for every $1 million invested in pulp mills only one new job was generated, while the same amount invested in furniture manufacturing created 40 jobs."

Tree-Free Paper

We don't need to grind our trees into pulp to make paper! According to Great Lakes United: "Our pulp needs can be made without harvesting trees. One acre of kenaf, a versatile plant related to cotton, produces as much fibre in one year as an acre of yellow pine, a standard pulpwood, does in twenty."

"Making paper from non-tree sources isn’t environmental wishful thinking. It is being done in at least 45 countries right now, in more than 300 mills. Non-tree-based papers (from kenaf, hemp, and other plants) produce superior tensile strength and opacity while requiring less bleaching and less energy to process. The cost of kenaf pulp can be as little as one-third that of imported tree-based pulp. That’s why Japan is intensively developing a domestic kenaf industry. Eventually, tree-based pulp will be priced out of the market."
(quote from Lake Superior: Story and Spirit )

Alternatives to using trees to make paper:
-Increased recycled content of paper-
-Tree-free paper (kenaf, hemp, agricultural byproducts, etc.) -


For more information:

Making Paper (Conservatree)

Dioxin

Who Reaches for Unbleached

Try Tree-Free Paper (Sierra Club)

Tree-Free Paper