We take paper for granted. We have toilet paper in our bathrooms, paper towels in our kitchens, and paper in our copy machines and printers. We wrap gifts in wrapping paper or put them in paper gift bags. We get fancy paper bags with handles when we shop at the mall. We get paper boxes from Amazon filled with books and other household purchases. We recycle most of the paper we come across every day. Well, maybe not the toilet paper. Recycling is a good thing. But using less will have a larger positive impact on the environment.

Making paper has huge environmental costs. Manufacturing virgin paper is an extremely dirty process, from the sheer volume trees that are cut down to the pollution created in the pulping process that enters our waterways and the atmosphere. We all need to get the facts. A good place to start is the Environmental Paper Network website.

It does feel good to put our used paper on the curb to be recycled. And that helps. Making new paper out of used paper saves energy because it takes less energy to make new paper from old paper. Recycling paper also causes less air and water pollution than making paper out of virgin materials. But to feel really good, we might want to go paperless. (Although this might be hard in the bathroom!) The real solution to lessening the impact on planet Earth is to use less and to buy paper products from companies that are transparent and use responsible manufacturing methods.