Sheets of Paper Made from Trees

How is paper made from trees?

15 Mar 2023

Have you ever wondered about the fascinating journey from trees to the sheets of paper we use every day? Well, it takes some digging to answer these questions. Since we are in this particular business, we rolled up our sleeves and decided to do some of that digging. After all, understanding how trees get transformed into the blank canvas for our thoughts and ideas is a pretty neat adventure to embark upon. So, let's fill the gap between these natural giants and the blank canvases that eagerly await the touch of our pens. It's a journey definitely worth taking!

Quick links

Stack of Paper

Paper = trees

The main ingredient of paper is cellulose, which is a fibre that all plants produce. Cellulose is used for a variety of things, but one of its most important uses is in making paper. Paper can be made by hand at home, utilising creative techniques and personal touches. However, when most people think of paper, the kind produced in a paper mill is what comes to mind.

Paper comes in many forms, reflecting its versatile nature, but it can be primarily split into two categories - long fibre paper, known for its durability and strength, and short fibre paper, prized for its smooth texture and printability.

Two types of trees used to make paper

Certain trees are preferred over others for making paper. The kind of tree used also affects the kind of paper you end up getting. Softwood trees like spruce, pine, and fir possess longer cellulose fibres. When processed at a mill they produce paper that is strong and durable, making it ideal for applications requiring structural integrity. Think - Origami. On the other hand, hardwood trees like oak, birch, and maple have shorter cellulose fibres which creates a more opaque and delicate paper, suitable for tasks that demand comfort and absorbency, such as toilet paper. Think - toilet paper.

Type of Paper Used for Origami

Basically, you’re not going to practice origami with toilet paper, and you’re not going to use résumé paper for the types of tasks toilet paper is best suited for.

Processing - how is paper made?

We left out the part about processing. Trees have to be removed. They then need to be transported. And then they are processed at a mill. That sounds easy enough but there are quite a few steps that need to be followed so people can have a napkin (that they’ll eventually throw away).

Animals lose their homes.

A bummer right? When you cut down trees squirrels, birds, bugs and whatever else that lives in or around those trees no longer have a place to call home. How would you feel if someone came to your neighborhood and chopped down your house and took it away? We’re not trying to make you feel bad but it is a cost that should be considered even though it’s hard to quantify.

Squirrel on the Tree

It’s loud & stinky.

Ever been around when an arborist comes to your neighborhood to cut down a tree? Then you know it makes a quite a racket. The chainsaws run on gas and sound like turbocharged weed whackers. The trucks and the grinding equipment, all diesel powered, idle all day belching hideous fumes and heat. Lovely.

Trees are heavy.

You may have this picture in your head of logs quietly floating down rivers until they reach the open arms of a mill, like in this 1930’s logging puff piece put out by the US Department of Agriculture. But most trees are cut down and trucked and/or transported by barge or train to a mill. Helicopters are even used (heli-logging). Moving all those trees takes a lot of energy which emits a lot of climate changing CO2.

You need chemicals (and more energy) to make paper.

Trees have to be turned into pulp which requires large amounts of water, energy, and chemicals. It also produces a certain amount of waste even though modern paper mills are fairly efficient operations.

It then needs to be moved.

Again. You know the drill. This requires more energy, which unfortunately leads to more pollution being released into the environment. This part of the process, where the materials are moved from place to place, adds to the pollution and environmental issues we're already facing. The extra energy used in this step reminds us of the importance of finding eco-friendly ways to handle these processes and reduce our impact on nature.

A Pile of Logs in the Middle of a Forest

The good news is that a lot of paper is recycled, but even recycled paper can be traced back to trees that had to be removed from the land - depriving animals of their homes and depriving the Earth of oxygen and all the other things we mentioned above. All to be tossed in the trash or down the drain. Finding sustainable alternatives to these resource-intensive processes is essential for mitigating the environmental impact of paper production and waste.

Stone paper ≠ trees

No one is chopping down mountains to get the stone for stone paper. That would be silly, completely unnecessary, and would be a tragic loss of a completely fine mountain.

Our paper is made of marble. We break into museums in the middle of the night and cart out as many priceless Greek and Roman statues as we can carry, pulverize them into dust, and turn them into notebooks and drawing pads. Just kidding. Nothing from antiquity was harmed to create our stone paper. We use the “waste” bits and cast-offs from marble quarries that when ground into fine powder make the primary ingredient of stone paper. It’s pretty harmless stuff. You probably have some in your house already as a marble cutting board or even as baking soda. The innovative use of these marble remnants helps minimise waste and gives a second life to what might otherwise be discarded.

Stone Paper Powder

The production of stone paper also uses no water, acid, bleach, or optical brighteners. And since trees aren’t used for our paper, squirrels and birds aren't forcefully evicted from their homes. This environmentally friendly approach not only conserves precious resources but also supports local ecosystems. It does take energy to transport our stone paper products, but guess what? We climate compensate all our shipping and we actually plant trees, demonstrating our commitment to offsetting our environmental impact and contributing positively to the planet's well-being.

Note on woodchucks and wood

We were unable to ascertain whether any woodchucks work in the paper industry. The Woodchucks’ Union representative did issue this statement: “Woodchucks chuck all the wood that a woodchuck could if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”

Final thoughts

At the heart of our journey lies the idea that every choice matters. The paper we choose not only reflects our thoughts. It also shows our commitment to the planet. Choosing paper made of stone over traditional tree-based paper is a step toward minimising deforestation, conserving water, and lowering carbon emissions - a small step towards keeping things in balance. When we choose such eco-friendly options and plant trees in return, we paint a brighter canvas for the future.

So, the next time you put pen to paper, remember the whispers of the trees, the hum of the machines, and the harmony we seek between nature and our deeds. Let's not forget the impact of our decisions. With stone paper and other eco-friendly alternatives, we can turn the page on harmful practices and write a new chapter in which sustainability is at the heart of every choice we make.

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Anders Ankarlid

Anders Ankarlid

Co-founder & Product Development Lead

Co-founder of agood company and product development lead. A serial e-commerce entrepreneur, and a father of three. Have worked in e-commerce for more than a decade. Mindless consumption activist.

"I want to be able to look into my kids’ eyes and honestly say: "I did everything I could to hinder climate-change”

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