Paper grows trees…quite fast!

In North America, it takes less than 2 seconds to grow the fiber needed for a standard #10 envelope (on 100 acres of managed forests).

For many years, International Paper’s “Go Paper. Grow Trees.” campaign and “Print Grows Trees” operated by the Printing & Graphics Association MidAtlantic have been promoting the vital link between paper / print and the long-term retention of privately-owned (including family-owned) forest lands.  In short, a strong market for pulp, paper, lumber and other forest products, does grow trees.

In North America we grow many more trees than we harvest.  Forest area in the U.S. increased by 5,800 NFL football fields per day between 2007 and 2012, or a total of 14 million acres.[ii]  In Canada, the forest cover has remained stable over the last two decades and, in recent years, Canada’s actual harvest has been 44% of annual growth.[iii]

To illustrate the powerful renewable features of well managed North American forests, we calculated how much time it takes to grow some well-known paper products: a standard #10 envelope and a ream of office copy paper (500 sheets).  The results may surprise you!

Our calculation methods
It is possible to estimate the time needed to grow wood fiber for certain paper products on a given forest area.  The results depend on which tree species are used to make these paper products and the age and growing conditions of the trees.  Soil fertility and moisture, drainage conditions and the number of trees per acre all affect tree growth rate. Tree species also vary widely in their wood density: a higher density wood will produce more fiber for the same weight than a low density wood.

The necessary data and fiber growth rate calculations were obtained from the literature for nine tree species used in pulp and paper production and occurring under different growing conditions in the U.S. and Canada.  The objective of this exercise was to develop estimates of the time it takes to grow the wood fiber necessary for the given paper products.

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