Nothing 'Green' In Going Paperless –MichelsonJuly 2013
Like Howard Beale in the 1976 satirical film, "Network," every time I receive a paper bill or statement urging me to go paperless to protect the environment, I want to stand up, open my window and shout, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Sorry for sounding so melodramatic, and I know my reaction isn't going to win me an Academy Award for Best Actor like the Beale role did for Peter Finch. All kidding aside, the printing and paper industries—and even the general public—realize that marketing campaigns urging consumers to switch to electronic delivery have nothing to do with going green, but everything to do with saving senders some green (money).
A new nationwide poll conducted by InfoTrends for Consumers for Paper Options bears that out. It found that 87 percent of Americans believe the main reason companies keep pushing for electronic delivery formats is strictly financial; it's not driven by their desire to be environmentally responsible. No one would take issue if firms promoted paperless delivery as a cost-savings measure, but making claims about saving trees and hence the environment are misleading, at best, and risk breaking U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines.
According to a recent blog written by Kathi Rowzie for advocacy group Two Sides (www.twosides.us), the FTC's "Guide for the Use of Environmental Marketing Campaigns" mandates "competent and reliable scientifc evidence" when it comes to making environmental claims. Even without doing a scientific life-cycle assessment, Rowzie points out three compelling differences between paper and pixels when it comes to environmental sustainability and why paper should remain as a communications option.
She notes how paper is made from trees—a renewable resource—whereas computers are made from petroleum-based plastics, metals and minerals. Rowzie adds that 65+ percent of the energy used to manufacture paper in the U.S. "comes from renewable, carbon-neutral biomass." Most of the electricity used to power computers and server farms is generated from fossil fuels. She also reports that 65.1 percent of paper produced in the U.S. was recovered for recycling, while e-waste is the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America.
So, the next time you get a bill or statement with a marketing insert urging you to "go paperless, go green," stand up and shout out Howard Beale's infamous refrain while dropping that insert out of an open window. Just make sure that it falls directly into a paper recycling bin.