Whether you work in your pajamas or outside of the home, you can help save virgin forests by making greener paper choices. Astonishing as it may seem in this eco-aware day and age, old-growth trees are still being clear-cut for paper goods. Every American goes through an average 886 pounds of paper per person per year. Busy worker beavers!

The pulp and paper industry is the largest single industrial wood consumer in the world, Treecycle.com reports, and almost half of all trees logged are processed into paper. According to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, each of us consumes "approximately one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir in paper and wood products per year." Deforestation in tropical areas alone contributes 20 percent of total worldwide carbon emission, according to the 2007 findings of the International Panel on Climate Change.

In addition to shrinking the lungs of the Earth, paper industry runoff pollutes our water and threatens our health with carcinogenic dioxins from chlorine bleaching and toxic heavy metals from inks.

But wait, there's good news! Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 mature trees, 7,000 gallons of water, three cubic yards of landfill space, two barrels of oil, and 4,100 kilowatt hours (Kwh) of electricity, enough to fill the needs of the average U.S. household for five months, EPA calculates. In 2007, more than 56 percent of paper used in the U.S. was recovered for recycling. Over 48 percent of office paper alone is recycled, and when we buy products made from this used, post-consumer-recycled/waste (PCR, or PCW) paper, our increased demand stimulates the green marketplace.

How to do it? It's easy. There's reams of the good stuff out there.

Read labels. Choose office paper with the highest percentage PCR or PCW content you can find: 100 percent PCW is increasingly available.

Also look for the Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) label.

Add to these the label of a reliable third-party certifier, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Green Seal, and you've found a paper chaste choice. 

Quick tip:  Look for "Enviro" on the package. Purest picks: BPM Envirographic 100 a(Green Seal) and Cascades Enviro 100 (FSC) papers, both 100 percent PCW and PCF, can be found at  Badger Paper, Greenline Paper and Treecycle.com. Other 30-100 percent PCW and chlorine-free papers can be found at Staples.

Remember to conserve paper by printing and copying on two sides, and to recycle your office paper. for more info, click here.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in May 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Going paper chaste in the workplace
Whether you work in your PJs or outside of the home, you can help save virgin forests by making greener paper choices.