Please consider the future

I wonder what the response would be if the following message was printed on each sheet of toilet tissue: Please consider the environment before using this. There are few things that make me put my head in my hands more than the similar message that appears beneath countless email signatures.

I do what I can to challenge the offending senders, stating the reasons why printing an email does less harm to the environment than the big data centres that store all the emails we haven’t printed. (Aside: the ‘please consider the environment before you print this email’ often comes with press releases I receive from PR agencies whose clients operate in the paper industry.)

Before I joined this business, I was one of those ‘offending senders’ so I consider myself a true convert. Some have even accused me of being ‘greenwashed’ by the industry I now serve.

My response to ‘anti-paperists’ is for them to think about how they started their day. Did they reach for a cereal box? Did they take sugar with their coffee? Did they open a new box of vitamins? You know what I’m getting at.

The question is: how do we get the world to see the value of paper and by extension wood fibre and planted forests, to the environment and in our everyday lives?

My answer: one person at a time. If each of us can respond to just one of those emails once a week, perhaps we could make a difference.

That’s why events like the World Forestry Congress are so important. Because of this, we’ve included a ‘Forestry Focus’ in this issue.

A meeting I recently attended included a presentation session hosted by the Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa and its Process Research Unit. I left inspired by what the Masters students are working on – essentially getting the most out of the tree and even paper sludge.

Another event that gave me hope was the Manufacturing Indaba in late June, also featured in this issue. One of the keynote addresses that sat with me for days afterwards was that of Uys Jonker, managing director of Jonker Sailplanes. Uys shared the family-owned aeronautics company’s journey as one of only four manufacturers in the world of this special type of aeroplane. They dreamed it. They built it. Here. In South Africa. A shining example that we can do it. (Springboks, are you listening?)

Bruce Strong, at the same event, exuded unequivocal passion for the potential of our manufacturing sector, issuing a call for us to be ambassadors for South African manufacturing; to turn the negativity of challenges into the positives of innovation.

So my message: grasp as many opportunities as you can to profess the importance of trees and the sector that turns their fibre into paper products. Even if it starts with a paperless email.

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