More on Our Overconsuming Society

Consumption, Waste and Deforestation

By Steve Holmer

(This article was forwarded to the editor on WISe by Bill Ragette on August 17, 1998)

The consumption of wood products in the U.S. is three times higher than developing nations and twice as high as other industrialized nations. The United States consumes over 90 million tons of paper each year (730 pounds per person) and this is projected to increase to 114 million tons by 2010. Activists within the forest movement have recognized that in order to save ourremaining forest systems, consumption of wood products must be reduced.

Alternatives in Action! (AIA!), the Dogwood Alliance, Heartwood and ReThink Paper began working this spring to change paper purchasing policies at colleges, universities and local and state governments. AIA! wrote and distributed guides to students on how they can get their school to change paper purchasing policy and reduce paper usage. At the regional SEAC (Students Environmental Action Coalition) conference in April, students adopted the paper purchasing and reduction campaign as their regional campaign. Students from twenty universities are now trying to get their schools to buy as high content of post-consumer waste (PCW) paper as possible.

If only a handful of colleges switch to high PCW paper, then a large marketwill have been created that will drive prices down and open up the market for recycled paper. This is but one strategy. Other goals include:

1) Reducing overall consumption

2) Replacing paper made from virgin wood with ecologically sound tree- free


3) Reforming laws so that a fair market for alternative fibers like

agriculture residues, hemp and kenaf can be established and

4) Refusing to buy products made from unsustainable virgin wood fibers.

5) Stop junk mail - write to: Mail Preference Service, Direct Market

Association, PO Box 9008, Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008

For more information on how you can help reduce wood consumption, contact

Alternatives In Action!, 2740 Alston Dr. SE, Atlanta, GA 30317, 404-378-2111

The Western Ancient Forest Campaign is now American Lands, reflecting our

work with citizens nationwide to protect America’s wildlife and wild places.

Steve Holmer is the Campaign Coordinator for American Lands. He can be reached at

(202) 879-3188 or email at