Adele Elliott: Deforestation

August 25, 2013 11:31:21 AM

Adele Elliott - [email protected]


Once upon a time we scribbled copious notes on everything from tablecloths to the backs of our hands. Our purses and briefcases were filled with day planners that resembled small encyclopedias. Usually they overflowed with scraps of paper jammed between the pages, often fluttering from their prison like escaped moths. Good luck to anyone who could keep appointments and phone numbers and grocery lists in any decipherable order. 


Then we were told that we were entering the "paperless age." The introduction of the personal computer heralded the prophecy that paper would soon be just a memory. This was very good news for trees everywhere. 


So what happened? Why am I am drowning in paper? Every surface in the house is covered with paper. The kitchen table, the dining room table, and the coffee tables never need dusting because they are protected with several layers of newspapers, catalogues, advertising circulars and who-knows-what. There are stacks of magazines older than the ones found in doctors' offices. Why don't I throw them away? Simply because we haven't yet read them. 


My studio/office looks like a stationery store exploded in it. There are bits of stories, notes for columns, art papers. Some are on the printer, some on the floor. 


My friend, Thom Geiger, recently gave me an Ipad to use as an eBook reader. I love it, and am filling it with virtual books. Still, the mountains of paper grow. Paper to write on, paper to read, paper to wipe up spills in the kitchen, all are still with us. (Take that, prophets of the early-eighties!) 


I recently learned that wood products are not for messages alone. Now, our food is filled with them. Have you ever read the ingredients on your food packaging? The word "cellulose" pops up quite a lot. That is a synonym for wood. 


I tried researching this on the Internet. After finding about 30 news articles on the subject, I stopped counting. 


Wood cellulose is used in everything from milk shakes to salad dressing, from muffins to pancake syrup. Food manufacturers use it to thicken and stabilize foods, replace fat and boost fiber content -- as well as to reduce reliance on more expensive ingredients like oil or flour. Yum! 


"Cellulose sounds like a friendly word, but it's actually processed virgin wood pulp, not actually digestible as we lack the appropriate enzymes to process it. Like meat glue, it is another type of food filler to reduce costs, but also reduces nutrition and quality. The cellulose in these foods is the same product used in plastics, cleaners, kitty litter (for its absorbency), electrodes, brake pads, glue, asphalt and much more." (Health Freedom Alliance. 7-16-11) 


Even organic-food products aren't safe from the taint of cellulose. According to a story in The Wall Street Journal, Organic Valley uses powdered cellulose made from wood pulp in its shredded cheese products. (Care2, 4-26-13) 


For the foolhardy, there are long lists of companies that use wood as a food additive. I do not want to frighten readers with this list. (Surely, none are in the Golden Triangle.) 


But really, we have to eat. Kudos to all the local residents who grow their own vegetables. This is the only way to be sure about what we put on the table, and to save a few trees as well. For the rest of us, those who buy most of the things we eat, it seems that sitting down to dinner is as risky as playing Russian roulette. Bon Appetit!

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.