Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's OK to Print. Trees Are Renewable, Recyclable

This is from an article in today's WSJ titled "Save a Forest: Print Your Emails":

"Notice: It's OK to print this email. Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provides jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago."

MP: What a great quote, I'm putting that at the bottom of all of my emails from now on. 


At 3/31/2011 5:48 PM, Blogger Colin said...

While I get the point, I still think that using as little paper as possible is a good idea from an efficiency perspective. The less money I spend on paper, the more money available to purchase other products. In a world of limited resources, the whole key to prosperity is doing as much as possible with as little as possible.

At 3/31/2011 6:09 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Colin, unnecessary constraints are a waste.

At 3/31/2011 6:42 PM, Blogger Doug said...

It's worth correcting the myth that using paper permanently kills off forests, but it's a bit like the broken window fallacy. It takes energy to create paper, and then more to throw it away. Those are costs that could be used for other economic endeavors. The fact that the production costs and future environmental effect is less than environmentalists argue is irrelevant. It's like a broken window that only costs 1c to fix. It may create jobs, but there's always the opportunity cost.

At 3/31/2011 7:11 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Doug, if you need 50 pages of paper and you're limited to 10 pages a day, couldn't that be inconvenient and costly?

I doubt anyone intends to print out paper just to throw it away.

At 3/31/2011 7:20 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

So, Dr Perry, below the quote write:

It can be inconvenient and costly not to print out this email.

Unnecessary constraints are a waste.

I know you don't intend to print out this email just to throw it away.

At 3/31/2011 7:57 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Carbon storage probably isn't important except in a geological sense. In the shorter term, a better way to sequester forest carbon is to use the forests to build things that are highly valuable, and will therefore be protected for hundreds of years. Otherwise, the idea of reversing or reducing what we have done with fossil fuels is a joke.

At 3/31/2011 9:03 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Using paper unnecessarily cost money, harms the environment, causes job losses and kills and maims workers through accidents. I have to spend money to print an email on ink and paper. Producing paper uses lots of energy and toxic materials. Trucks delivering trees and paper take up highway space and cause accidents. Accidents can also come from killing trees (ever watch Ax Men?). The money I could have saved by not printing paper could have been spent on other things that would create jobs in other industries. I suppose you want me to dump my Kindle and read my books from the backs of dead trees! Maybe we can really improve things by using sheepskin parchment. Think of all those shepharding jobs we can create. Baaaaaad advice!!!

At 3/31/2011 11:35 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Biodegradable materials don't degrade very well in landfills. There isn't enough oxygen getting in there for microbes to do their work. Most, if not all, paper also contains a whole bunch of chemicals; a fair amount of which aren't biodegradable or too good for the environment. Just sayin.

At 4/01/2011 2:21 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

According to Jim, is it necessary to drive a car, since they cause tens of thousands of deaths and many more injuries each year in the U.S., along with killing people in the oil industry?

The money I save on cars can be used to take a bus and buy solar panels, or we could drive cars similar to the Flintstones.

At 4/01/2011 8:45 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Hydra: "a better way to sequester forest carbon is to use the forests to build things that are highly valuable"

Pulp is a byproduct of southern pine forests. Plantation owners intentionally plant pine trees in high densities to ensure that trees grow straight. After ten years, the plantation is thinned. If more economical uses for ten-year-old pine trees existed, the market would do what you suggest.

Pulp is also created from the parts of trees which are left over when lumber is made. Lumber mills today use sophisticated tools to minimize such "waste". But they cannot convert every molecule of a tree into lumber.

I suggest you not try to outthink the free market. Pulp for paper and cardboard is today the most valuable use for ten-year-old pine trees and lumber mill wastes.

At 4/01/2011 8:49 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Doug: "It takes energy to create paper, and then more to throw it away. Those are costs that could be used for other economic endeavors."

If more economic uses for pulpwood existed, the free market would ensure pulpwood was used most economically. The free market - not government and not a commentor on a blog - is most efficient at allocating scarce resources.

At 4/01/2011 8:54 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Colin: "I still think that using as little paper as possible is a good idea from an efficiency perspective."

I have seen highly valuable professionals and executives struggle to navigate small print and double-sided documents - documents provided to them by well-intentioned but shortsighted persons who wish to save money on paper. I am convinced that efficiency of valuable executives and professionals is daily compromised in exchange for saving a few pennies on paper.

At 4/01/2011 11:09 AM, Blogger James said...

"Growing and harvesting trees provides jobs for millions of Americans"

That sounds high. A brief search of the BLS web site did not turn up data to support anywhere near that number of jobs. Anybody know where that number came from?

I once went of a tour of a General Electric light bulb envelop factory. In a very small plant they made 3 million light bulb envelops a shift. The tour guide pointed out that the janitors were instructed not to return any unbroken envelops that had fallen off the conveyer belt to the conveyer belt. The reason: The cost of the janitor’s time was many times the cost of an envelop. It was cheaper to make a new one than to save one. If an officer worker making minimum wage or above spends 15 seconds to save a page of paper the cost in wages far exceeds the savings in the cost of paper.

At 4/01/2011 11:12 AM, Blogger Eric H said...

Please consider the environment before creating your email or other electronic communication content. This requires electricity generation and/or battery production (which in turn requires electricity generation). Coal is not a renewable resource and neither are nickel, cadmium or lithium. The environmental effects of mining these materials to make your electronic communication possible (and/or driving your plug-in hybrid car) has a detrimental effect on the environment, not to mention the lives of the workers in these industries. Your emails and blog comments are causing global warming and enlarging your carbon footprint and probably killing baby seals.

At 4/01/2011 11:47 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I assume Eric is being humorous. Otherwise he is another person who wants to go back to the good old days.

At 4/01/2011 12:45 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I'll never forget going to my local Menards store in Minnesota(a timber state) to buy pine lumber...the stamp on the end of the board: "made in sweden"
The answer for the NIMBY, anti-tree harvesting crowd is -the horror!... outsourcing! DUH!
I'll add that lumber at Menards is consistently the least expensive in town.

At 4/01/2011 2:18 PM, Blogger Hydra said...


I agree with you. But pulp and cardboard is not a sequstration technique.

What I tried to point out is that the oft quoted idea of keeping forests alive "preserving forests" is also not a viable method of sequestration.

In fact, the whole idea of sequestration is a dumb idea compared to what it took to "sequester" the fossil fuels we have been burning.

Those southern pulpwood farms are amazing. They grow a useful tree in no time. But then, the tree is only useful fro pulp. Copmpare one of those trees to a naturally grown tree, and you find it is nothing like the same material.

At 4/01/2011 2:25 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

I'm amazed at the price of one 3/4
" x 8" by 6ft oak board at the local Lowes. I wouldn't have to cut very many of those to make my portable sawmill "pay".

For my own use. No transportation, no insurance, no overhead, etc.

But I still probably could not sell them to Lowes at the price they expect to pay. Still, If I need a piece of lumber, I usually just go out to the log pile and cut it.

Well in advance, so it can cure.

At 4/02/2011 4:26 AM, Blogger Jet Beagle said...

Hydra: "Those southern pulpwood farms are amazing. They grow a useful tree in no time. But then, the tree is only useful fro pulp."

My father-in-law's Southern pine plantation is typical of most across the South. When he thins his acreage, the small harvested trees are mostly used for pulp. But the real value of his Southern pine plantation is the lumber he - or my wife - will eventually harvest.

Southern yellow pine is not used just for pulp. Dimensional lumber and plywood from southern pine forests are used throughout the U.S.


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