Consider the Environment. Print this.
Yep. You read that right.
I’m sure we’ve all seen those disclaimers at the end of emails that say something like. “Please consider the environment before printing this email.” Similar wording appears on mailed billing statements to encourage people to go paperless and save trees. But, is the suggestion 100% accurate and legitimate? The paper industry doesn’t think so … and for good reason. Paper mills are in business to provide a product: paper. If, in doing so, they deplete their resource — trees — they’d eventually be out of business.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, “The amount of U.S. forestland has remained the same for the last 100 years.” In fact, printisbig.com says the paper industry plants three times more trees than it harvests. And, what about the life cycle of paper? Wood fibers in paper can be recycled about five times!
Two Sides U.S., Inc., a 501(c) 6 nonprofit organization that promotes the responsible production, use, and unique sustainable features of print and paper, agrees. “U.S. pulp and paper mills are largely self-sufficient, and some mills supply excess energy to the electric utility.” Compare that to the 539 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water it takes to manufacture one computer and monitor, according to dosomething.org.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says paper produces more municipal solid waste than any other material that Americans throw away — up to a total of 35 percent. But Two Sides U.S., Inc., sees things differently. “In the U.S., more paper products are recovered for recycling than any other material. In fact, 66.8% of the paper used in the U.S. in 2011 was recovered for recycling.” Compare that with the meager 12.5% e-waste recycling reported by dosomething.org. To top it off, the Print and Paper industry accounts for only 1.1% of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Consider the Alternative
Do you know the size of your carbon footprint by not printing and choosing instead to save documents electronically? How much energy is being used to power the server farms to store this information electronically? And, how much energy has gone into producing the proliferation of electronic storage devices and facilities? Remember, once electronics hit the end of their life cycle most ends up in landfills.
In summary, remember these facts from Two Sides U.S., Inc.:
Paper supports sustainable forest management.
Sustainable forest management benefits people and the planet.
Paper is one of the most recycled products in the world.
Much of the energy used in pulp and papermaking is renewable.
The carbon footprint of paper is not as high as you think.
Electronic media also has environmental impacts that cannot be ignored.
“Go Green; Go Paperless” messages can be misleading and may not meet best practices for environmental marketing.
Paper is one of the few truly sustainable products.
Many resources offer facts, figures, and statistics arguing both sides. So, do your homework. Check out sites like twosidesus.wordpress.com and determine what works best for you. Hopefully, it’s a responsible mix of paper and electronic storage.
This article originally appeared in DMAW Marketing Advents.