The recent devastating floods that hit Pakistan this year have been the worst in decades. Continued deforestation has given short-term benefits in the form of pulp for the paper industry and increased paper production, but the trees have been calling, loud and clear. Forests cover only 2.5 % of the country’s land, with one of the highest annual deforestation rates in Asia, and the highest rate of deforestation in the Indus delta mangroves, depleting at a rate of around 2.3%. More than 100,000 acres of forest land in Punjab and 27,874-acre of forests in Sindh have been used for commercial purposes, as the industries and corporate giants remain the true beneficiaries, while the common continues to bear the brunt. While relief efforts continue to roll in, we must wonder if Pakistan can afford to go through this again. Especially now, when we have experienced the nearly irreparable loss of life, livelihood, and infrastructure that has rendered Pakistan 10 years behind economically and fiscally. Every tree we cut down for paper and other perishable resources, is another home destroyed 5 years down the line. Having a thriving forest ecosystem not only provides a natural trap for carbon emissions but also protects the soil from erosion against rains. Where corporate entities and climate-conscious individuals are planting trees in the hundreds, we have to seriously look at our consumption patterns as well. The demand must never outstrip supply. Millions of sheets of paper are used around the world to print utility bills, receipts, credit card statements, and other seemingly “essential” pieces of paper. We need to reevaluate these practices in today’s context. The production of paper is a resource-intensive process. Millions of gallons of water are used in a process that releases greenhouse gases to the environment. Is there a need for so much paper in today’s digitized world? The pandemic changed the way we operate in Pakistan as well. People began using digital banking channels to conduct transactions, and receiving e-bills became a convenient substitute for waiting for courier deliveries amid disrupted supply chains. Companies are digitizing their processes to not only speed up turnaround times but to reduce their dependency on cumbersome stacks of paper. Our behaviour and lifestyle have a profound influence on the ecosystem that surrounds us. Our behaviour and lifestyle have a profound influence on the ecosystem that surrounds us. Our technologies and management decisions, related to how we consume, sustain, replace, and recycle natural resources, can have both positive and negative ramifications. Climate change disasters exacerbate Pakistan’s economic situation. The country is now predicted to experience an economic loss of $12.5 billion as a result of the destruction caused by floods. Economists are predicting, however, that this is just the tip of the iceberg, and the full extent of the damage and loss suffered is likely to be much higher. Turning the tide Moving towards a sustainable future does not require eliminating paper overnight. This may not be practically possible. However, we can take more pragmatic steps to poise ourselves for the future. Utility companies across the country could follow banks and encourage consumers to receive their monthly bills online. Better integration between various sectors can allow payments to be made against just an SMS stating the due date and the amount owed. Credit card holders don’t need to wait for their statements to know how much they owe to the bank – what’s stopping over 34 million consumers across Pakistan – equal to over 360 million annual bills – from beginning to do the same? Another potential area to explore would be the size of the bills themselves. As consumers, we tend to care only about the due date and the payable amounts. The rest of the details are usually included to fulfil regulatory requirements, but we should think about ways to modify the bills so they can carry the same information more compactly. Reforms begin with questioning the norms – does a utility bill need to be an A4 sheet of paper? In a recent webinar on “Adapting to Climate Change – Flood Rehabilitation Financing,” expert engineers, planning specialists, renowned economists, and finance professionals stated that Pakistan “will no longer be the same” after the recent floods. We all must rethink our attitudes, behaviour, and lifestyle toward our environment, and more specifically, nature. This begins with an improved understanding of systems ecology, conservation, and restoration sciences that will enable us to be proper stewards of our biosphere. For a sustainable Pakistan, it is therefore imperative that we look for digital solutions that will reduce the consumption of products using virgin trees and prevent further loss of biodiversity and reverse the occurrence and impact of climate change. The writer is a freelance columnist.