Moving Beyond Wood Pulp Part 1: Cotton

How schools, lawmakers and utilities can work together to speed the transition to zero emissions electric buses

Cotton is an alternative to using centuries-old trees for paper products. Cotton-rag paper can take material that is headed for the trash, and give it a new life.



This blog was co-authored by Natalie Dryja, Environment America Wild Forests Intern 

Old growth forests, untouched for centuries by logging and development, are a crucial habitat for thousands of species. The longer the trees grow, the more time the full forest ecosystem has to develop. This provides homes for birds who need tall trees, undergrowth for ground-dwelling critters and a lush environment for all animals living in between. Beyond that, older trees absorb and store more carbon dioxide than younger trees, helping us to fight climate change.

Unfortunately, some old growth forests in both the United States and Canada are still open to commercial logging. While it takes just a few days to log trees that have stood for a hundred years or more, it requires centuries for those forests to recover. The destruction of old-growth forests is the embodiment of a wastefully short-sighted mentality. We are facing a biodiversity crisis and a climate crisis. We should not be destroying essential habitats and some of our most valuable natural carbon sinks.

Of course, we don’t have to. When it comes to making paper products, home products and construction materials, alternatives to using centuries-old trees exist. Paper products can be made from recycled paper and wheat straw. Buildings can be constructed with reclaimed wood. And bamboo is being used everywhere — from paper to tools to flooring. This spring, Environment America Wild Forests Intern Natalie Dryja has been exploring the many alternatives to timber and wood pulp. She recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jackie Radford, the owner of JRadfordBookandPaper and artisan paper maker to learn about cotton paper. Check out the video to learn more about her product, process, and how she is making paper without tree pulp.

Photo credit: Trisha Downing via Unsplash





Ellen Montgomery

Director, Public Lands Campaign, Environment America Research & Policy Center

Ellen runs campaigns to protect America's beautiful places, from local beachfronts to remote mountain peaks. Prior to her current role, Ellen worked as the organizing director for Environment America’s Climate Defenders campaign. Ellen lives in Denver, where she likes to hike in Colorado's mountains.