OIT labs using paper made from sugar cane

Auburn University changed to Staples for purchasing office supplies last September, and with the switch comes the opportunity for Auburn to order tree-free paper at a competitive price. After some research and a few trial runs, OIT committed to using only tree-free paper in all computer labs.

You may be wondering, what is tree-free paper and why change from what we have always been using?

Sugar Cane LogoStaples sells tree-free paper from TreeZero, who sources the paper fibers from sugar cane. The story begins down in Columbia, where sugar cane is grown for global food and beverage production. After squeezing out the liquid to make sugar, the remaining fiber consists of cellulose, just like trees. That cellulose is then made into paper.

The tree-free paper is made from 100% postindustrial fiber, which means it is sourced from a by-product of industrial production. Prior to the tree-free paper industry, this fiber was either put into landfills or burned. Putting it in landfills takes up valuable land space, and releases methane, and burning it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Turning what was once waste into a usable material reduces emissions of these greenhouse gasses. Lifecycle analysis studies show tree-free paper has anywhere from 34 — 61% lower CO2 emissions than virgin tree fiber papers.

Being made from 100% postindustrial material, TreeZero paper requires no new fiber resources for making paper. It is also rapidly renewable, which means it grows quickly. Technically, ‘rapidly renewable’ is a fiber that can be harvested in 10 years, but sugar cane can actually be harvested 2-3 times a year.

Previously, OIT used paper made without any recycled content, also known as virgin paper. It took about 378 trees to make the paper OIT computer labs used just last year. By switching to tree-free paper, the paper used in computer labs will require zero trees!

Not only does going tree-free have positive environmental impacts, the TreeZero mills pay fair wages and provide good working conditions for their employees. The average tenure of their 1,100 mill employees is 17 years. In addition to running a responsible mill, the company also has two foundations which support the surrounding communities with extensive medical, social, cultural, and educational programs, and has invested millions of dollars in environmental enhancement programs for their mills.

Perhaps you might be worrying about how your printer/copier will handle this paper. Auburn’s new vendor for copiers, RICOH, found tree-free paper performed better than traditional recycled paper, producing less dust. Tree-free paper is also recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable.

Auburn University looks to support companies who are both environmentally and socially responsible. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to print, consider following OIT’s lead and use tree-free paper. If you are interested in purchasing tree-free paper, you can do so through Staples with the SKU# 697216.

Last Updated: August 23, 2016