How might the trees that are used to manufacture paper better serve our planet?

What else could paper trees be doing for the planet?

The environmental benefits of an office going paperless can be seen close to home, as banning paper helps to reduce a company's waste, subsequently lowering an organisation's carbon footprint and improving its green credentials.

But the benefits can also be felt much further away, as using less paper means the trees that are commonly cut down to produce pulp and paper can be used for other purposes instead.

Typically, a combination of softwood trees ­ such as pine, fir, larch and hemlock ­ and hardwood trees, including eucalyptus, aspen and birch, are used to manufacture paper.

Did you know that some of these trees can in fact have health benefits, or provide valuable habitats for animals?

Here, we take a look at the other useful properties of the trees that are traditionally used for manufacturing paper.

Fir trees

You'll more than likely already be aware of one of the other uses of fir trees that are cut down ­ chances are, you'll have one up in your house and maybe another in your office every Christmas.

Image: iStock/tonda

But the fir trees that remain and aren't cut down to be made into pulp for paper actually play an important role in providing a habitat for wildlife.

Animals such as deer and foxes can often be found sheltering under fir trees to escape cold winter weather, as the thick branches of the tree provide natural protection from the elements, as well as predators.

An abundance of insects also call the fir tree home, in turn providing sheltering animals with a source of food. In addition, the bark, needles and twigs of the tree itself can be eaten by these creatures.

Next time you're considering ordering a ream of printer paper, think about these poor animals and explore going paperless instead.

Pine trees

The needles of pine trees might not look appetising, but they are in fact edible and if prepared in the right way, they can provide you with a whole host of health benefits. Surely you'd rather gain these from trees than piles of unnecessary paper when you could be embracing electronic document scanning and the cloud instead?

Pine needle tea contains high levels of vitamin C, which can provide a boost to the skin and hair, as well as the immune system as a whole. The needles need crushing before being added to boiling water. Allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes for an aromatic brew.

The tree's needles can also be added to vinegar to add an unusual but flavoursome taste to salad dressings.

Larch trees

Old larch trees are in fact highly coveted by the boatbuilding industry. Those of 100 years old or more are often used in the construction of ships' hulls, as their relatively knot­-free make-up makes them strong enough to support the other materials used in the building process.

However, at present, larch trees are often cut down at the age of around 50 to be used to make pulp and later paper, meaning the shipbuilding industry may be forced to create new synthetic materials to construct boats from. This could potentially cause further harm to the environment, unless paper usage is dramatically reduced and fewer larch trees are cut down too young.

Eucalyptus trees

The eucalyptus tree is famed for its stunning pink flowers, but its leaves have countless medicinal properties that have been utilised for many centuries ­ despite the tree often being cut down to make paper.

Image: iStock/skflowerphotos

It's important to remember that eucalyptus oil can be dangerous if drunk or applied to the body in a non­diluted form, but once diluted, it can be extremely effective at treating burns and other wounds, while it can also be taken to soothe coughs and inflammation around the body, such as joint pain and osteoarthritis.

Research has been carried out in the past to assess eucalyptus oil's effectiveness in treating conditions ranging from diabetes to asthma, indicating a whole range of possibilities for this tree that is often mashed up and turned into paper.

Hemlock trees

The flowers and needles of the hemlock tree are extremely fragrant ­ something that is totally lost when it is used to make paper.

Although the leaves of the tree can be poisonous, the oil extracted from the tree is often used in perfume making.

We're by no means claiming that this is a necessity, perfume is after all a luxury, but it would be a shame to lose this ingredient simply to produce reams of paper that arguably don't have a place in today's digital world.

Aspen trees

The hardwood aspens that are often used in paper manufacturing provide a home for a wide variety of wildlife, including the aspen hoverfly and two gall midges. Furthermore, predator species are commonly attracted to the trees for food, as small birds and insects such as ladybirds also tend to find a home here.

Aspen bark is a favourite foodstuff of beavers too, while the deadwood cavities that are part of some aspen trees provide ideal nesting places for various birds, including the woodpecker. It would certainly be a shame to lose these wildlife habitats to the paper industry.

Birch trees

Have you ever considered swapping the maple syrup you use on your pancakes for birch syrup?

Image: iStock/Courtney Keating

Although manufactured in a similar way to maple syrup, birch syrup production is relatively low, but its sweet taste makes a lovely alternative pancake topping.

What's more, birch syrup contains high levels of vitamin C, potassium, calcium, manganese and thiamin, meaning that despite it being a sugary treat, it can also have benefits for the health.

Even if it's not in your kitchen cupboard, it's likely that you'll already have birch in your home, as it's commonly used in the manufacture of furniture and for making floorboards. This means it's probably already present in your office too, so don't support the deforestation of even more birch trees by continuing to use large quantities of paper.

Contact Storetec today to find out how we can help your organisation adopt a paperless approach.

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