Last weekend I had the opportunity to take part in an energy-related STEM event at a local nature preserve as part of a scouting event with my daughter. The girls took part in various experiments to learn about solar and wind energy – as well how all members of an ecosystem produce or consume energy from one another (and how the life cycles of each are altered if one organism is removed).

The most fascinating part, to me, was learning about the nature preserve’s microgrid. The microgrid is used to power the entire facility with different types of renewable and traditional energy sources. But its other purpose is to educate the public on how alternative fuel sources like hydrogen and solar can be used to reduce our carbon footprint and our reliance on non-renewable fuels like coal and oil.

The words renewable and sustainable seem to be used interchangeably, but they have different definitions.

  • A renewable resource has been defined as a resource which will replenish to replace the portion depleted by usage and consumption, either through natural reproduction or other recurring processes in a finite amount of time in a human time scale. Renewable resources are a part of Earth’s natural environment and the largest components of its ecosphere.
  • Sustainability relates to the connection of economic, social, institutional and environmental aspects of human society, as well as the non-human environment. A sustainable resource can be continuously replenished, or there is an endless amount of it without a decrease in supply or a negative impact on the environment.

Sustainability – The Key to Our Future

One of the key takeaways of the day was the shift toward renewable and sustainable energy sources and the many emerging technologies as we become an increasingly electronic society, consuming more energy every year. Statistics show that the average American uses approximately 313 million Btu of energy each year, while the worldwide average per person is around 75 million Btu.

The experience got me thinking about choices we all make and how the little things we do can make a big impact – positive or negative. Choosing renewable and sustainable options today has a lasting impact for the future. This is true in energy conservation, and other aspects of life.

Paper bags are a renewable, easily recyclable and quickly biodegradable packaging option. Thanks to sustainable forestry, paper packaging can offer a solution for businesses seeking a way to promote and package their products without using plastic or eliminating forest land.

What is Renewable Forestry?

There is a myth that we’re “saving trees” by eliminating paper– but in fact, trees are grown and replaced thanks to sustainable forestry efforts. We now have more trees than we did in the past. According to the US Department of Agriculture, over the past 60 years the number of trees in North America has increased by 3%. In other words, buying paper contributes to the number of trees planted – it’s a cycle.

Renewable forestry is defined as the practice of meeting the forest resource needs and values of the present without compromising the similar capability of future generations; note that sustainable forest management involves practicing a land stewardship ethic that integrates the reforestation, managing, growing, nurturing, and harvesting of trees for useful products with the conservation of soil, air and water quality, wildlife and fish habitat, and aesthetics.

Statistics provided by the American Forest & Paper Association show that more than 56 percent of U.S. forests are privately owned, much of it by family forest owners who manage their lands to provide value to future generations.

What’s next? Paper, plastic – or seaweed?

Though we’re obviously partial to paper – there are many packaging options currently available. But alternative packaging materials are being investigated. Some of those include seaweed and other edible and biodegradable options. Check out this interesting article from Brand Packaging.

Until edible seaweed bags become mainstream and viable, we’re here to help you with renewable paper packaging options for retail, food service, and industrial applications. When making the switch from plastic bags to paper bags there are many things to consider – and our customer service team is here to help with the transition. Contact us today for help selecting 100% recycled, recyclable, compostable and biodegradable paper bags.