/ Shopping

Are your paper products made from illegally sourced wood?

Cross section of tree trunk

Do you stop to look for a logo before you buy paper and wood products? A recent survey from World Wildlife Fund suggests that this is a much bigger problem than many of us are aware of.

I’m never going to lay claim to being the world’s most ethical shopper, but I like to think I have some idea what I’m doing.

If I’m shopping I will think about where my eggs have come from and I worry about sweat shops – but it’s never occurred to me to worry about the origins of my paper.

More fool me. Apparently, £700m a year is spent by UK shoppers on products made from illegally sourced wood. And we’re now the world’s fourth largest importer (after China, the US and Japan) of illegally logged or traded timber and wood products. That means our paper purchases could be adding to deforestation and global warming.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), it’s not just me who’s blindly buying these paper and wood products. A recent survey by the conservation charity revealed that half of us don’t think about this when we’re shopping – even though it affects everything from paper to furniture.

On the plus side, you can guarantee what you’re buying comes from sustainable sources by looking for the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) logo. WWF’s What Wood You Choose? Campaign has been successful in getting several major companies to commit to sustainable, FSC-labelled wood. These include B&Q announcing that all its tropical plywood is now certified, and Argos recently launching an FSC-certified kitchen range.

While this is good progress, it’s still another label to look out for – and just because it doesn’t have the label doesn’t mean it’s been illegally sourced.

Do you look to see if the paper and wood you’re buying is sustainably source,d or is it the responsibility of companies to help us negotiate this environmental minefield?

Sophie Gilbert says:
22 November 2010

Surely if we are an importer of illegally logged or traded timber and wood products, no matter how large but especially is we are the fourth largest (shame on us!), the onus first and foremost should be on our government to put measures in place to stop this. However ethically or environmentally aware we consumers are, I would argue that it is blindingly obvious that we can’t fight this one on our own. And forget about the responsibility of companies. They will be profit-driven, and profit and ethics do not mix.

What happened to the paperless office myth?

As an ex-NHS professional I can confirm that the introduction of PC’s actually put UP the consumption of paper.

Double-sided a% letter replaced by single sided A4 printouts and the NPfIT (Choose & Book) american software outputs printed letters in american letter size, which means patients get two A4 pages with one line on the 2nd blank page. We identified this in 2005 – my letter this week had 6 pages of A4
It could be duplexed on one sheet of A4
Paper consumption was going up by 65% a year in my last year of employment.

Looks like they learnt nothing!