How Many Trees Are Really Saved Through Paperless Statements

How Many Trees Are Really Saved Through Paperless Statements

Have you gone paperless yet? If not, then you are not only giving yourself a ton of documents to sort through and store, but you’ll also be causing more damage to the environment than necessary. These days, online banking makes everything much simpler and gives us access to our accounts wherever we are in the world; and switching to entirely paperless banking is as simple as clicking on a link from there. So why not make the change right now? As in, literally, head over to your browser while you read this and check the box?

Perhaps it’s because you’re dubious as to how many trees you can really save from going paperless. Maybe you think it’s actually just a way for the banks to save money? Well then let’s take a look at how many trees are actually saved by going paperless and whether you really would be making a difference by clicking that button…

Well finding any data online regarding the precise number of trees that get saved when you go paperless is surprisingly difficult – which you might think is suspicious. Perhaps though it’s just that the banks don’t know?

Either way, this leaves it to us to do some complicated maths to work out the answer so let’s take a shot at it…

Here Come Some Numbers…

How Much Paper Does One Tree Make?

First of all it’s important to note that most trees are made from pine wood so it’s pine trees we’re looking at. Most of these trees are somewhere in the region of 1 foot in diameter and around 60 feet tall. If we then use something you might remember from your highschool maths lessons we can ascertain the volume of those trees: pi X radius2 X length = volume so the volume of these trees is around 81,430 cubic inches with a weight of roughly 1,600 pounds.

Of course it’s not quite that simple though, as actually not the entire tree will get turned into paper. The tree gets turned into pulp first and of this yield is around 50 percent – the reason being that we can’t use the knots, the lighin or the other stuff that’s required for paper. In short then you’ll get about 805 pounds of paper from the process. Now if you consider that a packet of 500 sheets of A4 paper is often labelled as ’20-pound stock’ you can estimate that you’d get around 80,500 sheets of paper from that tree. Whew!

How Many Statements Do We Get?

Now let’s think about the average person. Most of us I’d say have either one or two ‘main’ bank accounts that we get statements from, so on average let’s take a stab at 1.5 (again banks don’t seem to be overly willing to release that kind of information). Most of these accounts will get one statement a month, so that means that on average you have about 18 statements per person per year. Assuming you lived to 85 years and had a bank account from the age of 16, you’d use 1,242 statements in your lifetime. In other words you’d save 1/65th of a tree… Consider though that most of those statements are more than one sheet of paper (let’s say 2 on average) and you’ve saved 2/65ths of that tree instead.

So You Don’t Save One Tree…

Don’t let this fool you though, like all these things the benefits come when you multiply that by large numbers of people. It only takes 32.5 of you to save a tree, and if you think about how many years it takes for a pine tree to grow (17 years) then that’s still a very impressive feat.

Now if we look at the number of people living in the US (304 million according to the 2010 Census), and the majority of those over 20 (221 million), and you eliminate the 10 million adults in the US reportedly without bank accounts, then you have 201 million people with bank accounts using around 2,484 fewer sheets of paper per year. Now that’s 499,284,000,000 sheets of paper being saved. Divide by 500 and multiply by 20 and that’s 19,971,360,000 pounds of paper saved – or 12,482,100 trees a year. In a generation that would be 861,264,900 trees, and that’s America alone with a conservative estimate – and it’s before you even look into the possibility of paperless billing for your electricity and other bills. Each of these trees takes 17 years to grow, so we’re talking whole rainforests here.

The Cost of a Tree

And the value of these trees mustn’t be underestimated. Trees of course are responsible for transforming our carbon dioxide back into oxygen, and that’s something we need now more than ever. They also provide a habitat and food source for countless species of animal – felling even one will kill thousands of creatures and single trees can hold entirely unique species of insect due to their ability to act like ‘islands’.

So go on, go to your online banking and click ‘paperless’. It’s really not that difficult…


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