Forests are 30% of the solution to climate crisis and are home to the bulk of land-based biodiversity – and we’re cutting them down to make single-use boxes? Nicole Rycroft from the NGO Canopy shares how to package responsibly.

Outdoor adventurers are already bearing witness to the growing climate crisis. Changing weather patterns, longer and more intense wildfire seasons, and dramatic changes to the landscape are all affecting hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. With the face of outdoor recreation changing much faster than scientists predicted a decade ago, many passionate individuals in the outdoor community are looking to their favorite brands to show leadership by demanding climate solutions that will protect the wild places they love.

Forests, especially Ancient and Endangered Forests, absorb and store vast amounts of carbon. They are also home to the majority of the world’s life on land. Protecting and restoring the world’s forests is vital for preserving global biodiversity and is the quickest and most cost-effective climate solution. Yet everyday these irreplaceable forests are falling.

Today, less than 20% of the world’s original forests remain in tracts large enough to sustain their full range of ecosystem services. An estimated three billion trees, which, if all in one place, would span the country of Germany – are cut down to sustain global paper packaging supply chains each year. Trees that once made up a vibrant and rich forest ecosystem, brimming with life, become mountains of take-out containers, paper cups, and shipping boxes. With forest-based packaging growing aggressively due to the surge of e-commerce and important shift away from plastics, organizations, activists, and climate scientists are searching for solutions to save these vital forest ecosystems.

Packaging’s 4 R’s

Canopy’s Pack4Good initiative was born to transform the unsustainable packaging supply chain and keep forests standing. The initiative helps companies that use paper packaging develop holistic packaging strategies and become advocates for forest conservation by embracing their four R’s: reuse, right-sizing, recycled content, and re-imagined raw materials.

Reuse is one of the key components in revolutionizing supply chains that rely on wood, while being good for both business and the planet. For example, a Canopy brand partner and global retailer recently redesigned its single-use “warehouse to store” shipping boxes so that they can be used up to six times before the box is recycled. In doing so, the company now uses 83% fewer resources to ship products to stores, saving millions of dollars and countless trees.

Other initiatives – like right-sizing, which ensures the optimal size of packaging for a product, or using recycled paper as a feedstock for packaging – can also play a big part in taking the pressure off the world’s forests.

Next Generation Alternatives to Wood

It’s also possible to incorporate sustainable alternatives into supply chains. These Next Generation (Next Gen) alternatives to wood come from food industry waste, agricultural residues, and other feedstocks. These solutions are redefining the fibers used to create packaging – and its environmental impacts. Next Gen packaging provides a triple benefit: Taking the sourcing pressure for paper products off forests, reducing waste that is already in the system, and requiring less energy, water, and chemicals to process than tree fiber. If just 50% of the virgin forest-derived packaging were made with Next Gen pulp, 1.5 billion trees would be saved from the chopping block every year.

Packaging supply chains do not have to destroy vital forests around the world. Next Gen Solutions provide a stable, cost-competitive, low-carbon supply of packaging that enables forests to be conserved.

We want the planet protected for lovers of the outdoors and homebodies alike – our continued survival depends upon it. With your help, companies can do more than think outside the box on paper packaging, they can re-imagine what packaging can be altogether and protect the ecosystems we all love for this generation of outdoor enthusiasts and all of those to come.


Lead Photo: Andrew Wright


Nicole Rycroft
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