How Much of Something is Enough?

A lot of words have been written lately about print being sustainable. But what, exactly, does sustainable mean? How much is too much? How much is just right? Or, is it as Mick Jagger once said, “Too much is never enough.”

Maybe it’s more a matter of thinking differently about print. We live in a throwaway society. We blithely toss out technology just so we can get the latest whizbang gadget, even though the last one still works perfectly well. Many people change cars every three years because the rental agreement expires (you may call it a lease, but it’s really a rental). Then there’s all that junk mail that tries to sell us stuff we don’t need.

But how much of what we do is really sustainable on a planet where 7 billion of us are sucking the joint dry on a daily basis? What we really need are approaches in which we do more with less. That, if we’re lucky, may be sustainable. Virtuously recycling everything to make it into more stuff we don’t really need is not sustainable.

The print part
Print is no exception, and using paper that comes from crop-grown trees in “responsibly managed” forests is a nice idea, but not enough. Think about the paper you carry back from every conference and trade show. Chances are, it gets looked at a few times and hits the recycle bin. And how about the tons of paper thrown away (maybe recycled, maybe not) during a typical print trade show?

But suppose trade show badges came with a USB stick onto which you could download all the product propaganda from each booth you visit. Or, if booths offered a QR code or SnapTag link to documents that could be downloaded to your phone? Or, if all printed brochures used such codes to provide a richer experience?

Noel Ward is Managing Director of Brimstone Hill Associates, which specializes in marketing communications in the printing industry, including video production. He can be reached at 603-672-3635 or via email at noel@brimstonehill.com. His website is brimstonehill.com, and he has a YouTube channel.
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