The ‘Green’ TEAM
According to one of the better-known accounts in the compendium of humankind’s greatest achievements, it was in the year 105 that a Chinese man named Ts’ai Lun invented paper, mashing up wood from a mulberry tree with fiber from bamboo. Thus was born a technology that would literally change the world, making possible artistic, scientific and religious revolutions, democratizing literacy and learning, and ushering humanity into the modern age.
In recent times, paper production has played a role in changing the world in other ways. The book industry alone required 3 million to 4 million tons of paper over just the last three years, which translates into the consumption of a lot of trees—at least 60 million worldwide, according to the nonprofit Green Press Initiative (GPI), including wood harvested in some of Earth’s most sensitive ecosystems, the Canadian boreal forest and the Indonesian rain forest among them.
And then there’s the proliferation of greenhouse gases. According to ice core data (which is data derived from a core sample of the accumulation of snow and ice over many years) compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency, in Ts’ai Lun’s day, the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere was at around 280 parts per million, close to where it had been for millennia and where it would remain for approximately the next 1,700 years. Since the 1800s, the industrial revolution has fueled a spike in atmospheric CO2 levels without precedent in the last 650,000 years.
With the GPI reporting that the paper industry emits the fourth-highest level of C02 among manufacturers, these are not numbers the book industry can ignore, as there is widespread evidence of a correlation between the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and global temperatures. Deforestation from all causes is estimated to account for 25 percent of human-generated carbon emissions. Another concern is methane, produced by paper as it breaks down in landfills, which, the GPI says, has 23 times the heat-trapping power of carbon.