A new study conducted by The Heinz Center, a national environmental and economic think tank, analyzes greenhouse-gas emissions from magazine and lumber production – from tree to final product to the end of the product’s useful life.
The study was commissioned by the companies studied and used only their data, so while it is not experimental or blind in nature, it does give some sense of the environmental impact of some of the largest wood-products producers and consumers in North America. These include Canfor (a Canadian softwood lumber and pulp producer), The Home Depot, Stora Enso (a paper and packaging company), and Time, Inc. These companies provided data on their entire manufacturing, production, and distribution chains in 2001 for the study.
The Home Depot, which was the focus of the lumber production study, obtained all of the lumber analyzed in the 2001 study via Canfor, from the Chetwynd Forest in the heart of British Columbia. Heinz Center researchers calculated that 0.22 tons of carbon were emitted per ton of lumber, or 0.83 tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per ton. For comparison, driving a car 8,322 miles per year (the average for Americans) emits 1.9 to 4.7 tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent per year, depending on the car’s fuel efficiency.
By far, the transportation and distribution of lumber account for the most emissions (94 percent). Forest management and harvesting together account for less than 1 percent, while transport to and processing of wood at the sawmill each account for 2 percent, as do miscellaneous losses.
Magazine production, by contrast, used its greatest amount of carbon in the paper-production process. In this study, the life cycles of Time (as well as InStyle, another Time, Inc. magazine) were examined, magazines for which Canfor provides pulp – made from lumber-milling residue – that is transported to Stora Enso to become paper (along with pulp from Stora Enso’s own supply chain).
The analysis showed that 0.30 tons of carbon, or 1.11 tons of CO2e, were emitted for each ton of Time produced. Pulp and paper production account for 61 percent of these emissions; forestry and harvesting 2 percent; transportation of raw materials to the mill 8 percent; transportation of paper to printers 1 percent; printing 4 percent; transportation and distribution of magazines to readers 8 percent; and disposal of magazines 16 percent. Analysis of InStyle produced similar figures.
To reduce carbon emissions, which was the ultimate goal of the study’s participants, the Heinz Center made separate recommendations for magazines and lumber. In the case of lumber, improvements can be achieved through energy use efficiency, upgrading the efficiency of older sawmills, use of renewable fuels, and combined heat and power production. To address the biggest use of carbon, transportation, the study recommends use of more efficient transport method (for instance, using trains instead of diesel trucks) and the creation of more efficient truck engines, especially ones that use alternative fuels.
In the case of magazines, improvements should again be made in the efficiency of energy use from start to finish but especially in the production of pulp and paper, which can be achieved through the use of renewable fuels and combined heat and power production. The researchers also recommend that magazine publishers examine newsstand sales and target consumers more efficiently to avoid overproduction of magazine copies.
In both cases but especially for magazines, the final resting place of the product also accounted for a substantial chunk of the carbon emissions budget. Despite widespread media campaigns promoting paper recycling, estimates still show that only about 17 percent of magazines are recycled; the rest, unfortunately, are incinerated or sent to the landfill.