If you’re sitting in your office—or home office—take a quick moment to look around you. There are probably sheets—if not heaps—of paper cluttered on your desk, stacked in boxes, or filed away in storage. On any given day this is probably what your typical office looks like and if you are the typical office worker you will probably utilize approximately 10,000 sheets of paper per year.

However, that is just one worker. Imagine the volume of paper in your entire office, year after year, employee after employee, and the impact that this potentially has had on our carbon footprint. Perhaps we never really wanted to know just how many trees it took to produce all that paper, and that is probably because you’d be shocked at the size of a forest that is actually in your office.

In today’s world, much of our daily lives have transformed towards digital and away from paper, but we should ask ourselves if we are getting there fast enough. Perhaps it may take a deeper understanding of the papermaking process in finally taking action to convert from paper to digital.

The process of converting trees to paper begins with harvesting trees turned into big boards that are used for building and construction with the pulp left over from harvesting becoming the foundation for creating paper. This pulp then goes through an intensive process that includes being mixed with water, screened, dried, and pressed before finally being shaped and cut to desired sizes.

This process, though, is never simple and requires a heavy demand in additional resources to produce just a single sheet of paper. To shine a light on this process, it takes 32 million BTUs and 293,868 liters of water to produce just 1 ton of paper (200,000 sheets).

Now take into consideration that the average worker goes through approximately 10,000 sheets of paper per year. One tree alone can produce 8,333 sheets of paper—I know, math, but bear with me. If the average company employs a roster of 100 employees, this can potentially equate to 1,000,000 sheets of paper per year.

To put this into perspective that’s 120 trees, one-acre worth of forest, or the size of a regulation football field. And that is just for one average-sized office.

There are nearly 2 million employer businesses in Canada. If each business hires on average 100 people, each averaging 10,000 sheets of paper, then we as Canadians collectively would be using 1.6 billion sheets of paper or 192 million trees—annually.

In the past two decades, an average of 2.3 million square kilometers of forest were lost globally, with only 800,000 square kilometers of forest being gained. British Columbia, known for its Rocky Mountains and beautiful, boundaries of trees, is visibly becoming depleted and most of Vancouver Island has been converted to young tree farms. This trend, however, has spread eastward as Saskatchewan and Quebec are following suit. The negative impacts as a result have already plagued our planet for future generations as they have consequentially affected natural habitats along with pollution.

Pollution is inevitable and unavoidable with the production of paper. The paper industry accounts for approximately 20% of total air pollution. In addition, land and water pollution, including contamination, have the ability to destroy entire habitats and ecosystems altogether. In Canada alone, the paper industry accounts for 5% of the total waste we see in waterways. With about 25% of water used to produce paper leads to contamination, we can see that to produce just 1 ton of paper translates to 75,708 liters of contamination.

To go through on average of 120 trees per year by your average-sized office you can imagine now not just how big of a forest it took to transform it all into paper but as well as the magnitude of the environmental impacts to do so.

We have long relied and depended on paper for documents, records, and contracts, yet the crucial information stored here isn’t forever—so why haven’t we still gone digital?

With modern technology we have the capability to store information practically forever—yes, this is obviously something Consentia specializes in as well but that’s not the point. Once our precious resources are uprooted and transformed, they cannot be transformed back into trees. We can, however, transform the information on paper into digital—that will essentially be forever—and simultaneously start evolving away from paper altogether.

We cannot reverse the effects that we have already caused but we can allow our planet to heal and adequately provide an opportunity for sustainability. Now wouldn’t that be an “in-tree-guing” vision moving forward—yes, pun intended.