Kieron Byatt, PaperCut – PaperCut offers more than print management. We’re in the business of saving trees. We’ve been at it for 22 years now. To date, over 112 million users in 186 countries are reducing their paper wastage with our software. Business is good.

How many trees have we actually saved? We happen to have data. Sort of…  There’s quite a caveat on that front.

In the past, we’ve answered the question, ‘How many sheets of paper have we saved so far?’ For 2020 we wanted to go further and answer, ‘How many trees have we saved so far?’ But it’s a case of a simple question, a complicated answer.

If you’ve ever Googled ‘how many sheets of paper are in a tree’ (go on, do it, be awesome like me) you know what I’m talking about.

It’s actually almost impossible to determine with absolute certainty

How does paper get made?

Before you can work out a paper per tree ratio, you need to be more precise:

  • What type of paper?
  • What type of tree?
  • What type of manufacturing?

The amount of paper sheets produced by a tree depends on all of the above.

What kind of wood?

Some trees are hardwood, some are softwood.

These aren’t a distinction in density, rather their reproductive cycles. All types of hardwood and softwood are all different, heights, widths, and ages.

After harvesting they’re all pulped into chips and sawdust then transformed into paper.

What kind of paper and manufacturing?

Different types of paper have different pulping processes:

  • Mechanical and groundwood processing (newsprint, telephone directories)
  • Kraft or freesheet processing (office paper, magazines)

Groundwood processing uses approximately half the amount of trees as freesheet.

Finally, some paper is coated, some paper is uncoated. The total weight of the sheet depends on its finish.

How many pieces of paper does a tree produce?

We’ve been using one particular study because it’s the most concrete data in this field – at least that we can find.

For our official metric, we’ve been referring to Claudia Thompson’s book Recycled Paper: The Essential Guide (1992). Thompson reports an estimate calculated by Tom Soder, a graduate student in the Pulp and Paper Technology Program at the University of Maine. Soder conducted his research based on a mixture of hardwoods and softwoods approximately 40 feet tall and between 6 to 8 inches in diameter.

He calculated a rough average of 24 trees producing one ton of printing and writing paper using the freesheet pulping process. Based on the assumption that groundwood processing uses half the amount of trees, we can deduce 12 trees produce one ton of newsprint paper.

Here’s the rub…

Everything, (well, at least a lot) in this field is an estimation.

There are countless higher and lower versions of the above calculations and Soder’s study is also now 28 years old. Trees, paper, and paper manufacturing have changed a lot in three decades. But it’s the most concrete research we can find, so it’s what we’re going with. It’s also not too far off a lot of other estimations.

So, how many sheets of paper does one tree produce?

Using Soder’s calculations, it is estimated that 1 tree makes 8,333.3 sheets/16.67 reams of copy paper. 

How does PaperCut save trees?

Before we keep going with the numbers, quick sidestep.

It’s all well and good to claim we’re saving trees, with or without the fancy-schmancy data to back it up. But how do we do it? That’s what’s important. It’s also the whole PaperCut mission.

Before we hit you with the data, here’s a brief summation of some of PaperCut’s ‘tree-saving’ features as it were:

  • Secure print release – When a user’s print job is sent directly to the printer, there’s ample time for the user to forget or not collect their paper, which sometimes leads to the user even printing again.

    This wastes toner and precious trees. Secure print release is more than a security feature. Demanding authentication before spitting out a print job eliminates that pile of uncollected documents sitting next to the printer.

  • Print quotas – Accountability means no frivolous printing. Enforcing a printing allowance with print quotas means users are personally responsible for why and when they print.

    This is especially helpful in education where students and departments have a set budget that curtails wastage.

  • Print policies – Some printing environments have the best-laid intentions of implementing print rules, but this pop-up system prompts users right at the interface to double-check sensible practices.

    This can include suggesting better options or recommending a more economical printer for large jobs. Print Policies can also enforce environmentally friendlier options and convert atypical jobs like emails.

  • Print filters – PaperCut NG/MF offers two types of filters: conversions and restrictions. Users can be encouraged at the time of release to convert to duplex and greyscale, which they can easily change themselves. Or the option can be automatic, courtesy of the aforementioned print policies.

    After converting an initial time, users are immediately presented with their savings to encourage future use of the feature. With restrictions, a user can automatically delete duplicate print jobs where a print job has been accidentally queued multiple times.

How many trees has PaperCut saved?

Alright, you’ve stuck with us this long (assuming you are still reading). Let’s get to the definitive answer…

To figure this out we looked at our data pertaining to features that stopped or reduced pages being printed.

That would be our Hold/Release functionality, which requires jobs to be authenticated before printing.

So we’ll combine those data sets to calculate how many sheets of paper we’ve saved. We’ll then reverse engineer the data into how many trees that is, based on Soder’s calculations.

Across all PaperCut customers, Hold/Release has held back 3,415,929,026 sheets. Of that 3.4 billion held, only 1.063 billion were released, this gives us a total of 2.337 billion sheets saved.

Divide that by 8,333 sheets and we get 280,451 trees!

To date, our PaperCutters all around the world have saved 280,451 trees.

Now, a word on this number…

This is an estimated figure, but a conservative one.

We do have data to go off, but we can’t pinpoint exactly how many pages have been held, and also pages converted to a duplex. We don’t have all that data. But the good news is, that means there are sheets held and converted unaccounted for. So the true, true numbers are likely much higher.

I say likely because, as I was saying earlier, calculating how many sheets of paper one tree produced isn’t an exact science. Or at least, the exact science that we have found is an old study, but that leads us to our main point.

The point…

Eliminating waste is the foundation of PaperCut. Sustainability is one of the core values in our vision for the future.

End of the day, we be saving some trees, yo. The numbers are hard to nail down. But one thing we can say with absolute certainty is that we are eliminating wasteful printing.

As an extension of our tree saving efforts, earlier this year, we also entered the tree growing business. With our ongoing support of Carbon Positive Australia, for every PaperCut license purchased, we plant a tree.