Myth: Paper production is a major producer of greenhouse gases emissions.

Fact: Most of the energy used is renewable and carbon intensity is surprisingly low.

65.2% of the energy demand at U.S. pulp and paper mills is met with renewable biomass energy.1


A look across the entire life cycle shows that paper’s carbon footprint can be divided into three basic elements: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, carbon sequestration and avoided emissions. Each of these elements is influenced by important characteristics that make paper’s carbon footprint smaller than might be expected: It is made from a renewable resource that stores carbon, is recyclable and is manufactured using mostly renewable energy including biomass, biogas and hydroelectricity.

With 0.8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, the paper, pulp and printing sector is one of the lowest industrial emitters.NAVIGANT, 2019

  • Trees use the energy of sunlight, and through the process of photosynthesis take carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and water from the ground. In the process, oxygen is released into the air. In addition to the CO2 that trees capture, they also help soil capture significant amounts of carbon.2
  • In 2018, U.S. forests and wood products captured and stored roughly 12% of all carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) emitted by the U.S.3
  • In Canada in 2018, forest land captured and stored 19% of all CO2e emitted in Canada.4
  • GHG emissions (CO2e) from the U.S. pulp and paper industry dropped from 44.2 million to 35.7 million metric tons (15%) between 2011 and 2018 due in part to improved energy efficiency and increased use of less carbon-intensive fossil fuels and carbon-neutral biomass-based energy sources.5
  • Pulp and paper facilities self-generate more than half of their electricity needs, more than 90% of this through the efficient use of combined heat and power (CHP). CHP makes the most of energy resources by generating electricity and utilizing the heat that would otherwise be wasted to provide useful thermal energy for manufacturing operations.6
  • In both the U.S. (2018) and Canada (2017), the pulp and paper industry was responsible for about 0.5% of the total industrial CO2e emissions.7,8
  • In Canada, bioenergy continues to increase its share of the energy mix, accounting for 62% of forest industry energy use in 2018, up from 49% in 2000 and 43% in 1990.9 Between 2005 and 2015, the Canadian forest industry reduced its energy use by 31% and GHG emissions by 49%.10

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  1. American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA), 2020
  2. National Geographic, 2019
  3. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2020
  4. Government of Canada, 2020
  5. U.S. EPA, 2019
  6. National Council on Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI), 2018
  7. U.S. EPA, 2019
  8. Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN), 2020
  9. NRCAN, 2020
  10. NRCAN, 2020