Sustainable Print Is the Truth … Can You Say the Same About Electronic Media?
By Chris Biscuiti, Minuteman Press International
One of the biggest myths about the printing industry is that print on paper is not an environmentally friendly form of communication. The other big misconception is that electronic media and wireless communications have sustainable advantages over print and paper. Both of these are unsubstantiated claims that are easily dispelled when one takes a closer look at all of the facts.
High Recovery Rate of Paper
According to a 2016 fact sheet issued by Two Sides North America, paper is one of the most recycled products in the world, beating out plastics, glass and metals. Two Sides also reports that "the U.S. paper recovery rate rose from 63.5% in 2013 to 66.8% in 2015, the highest reading ever recorded." By comparison, in 1990, the paper recovery rate was 33.5%. Two Sides also indicates that the American Forest & Paper Association wants to increase the recovery rate even further, to "70% by 2020."
The Truth About Sustainable Print
The Printing & Graphics Association MidAtlantic (PGAMA) has created an educational campaign called Print Grows Trees that highlights how print on paper actually helps to grow trees and keep forests from being sold for development. The truth is that the printing industry has been at the forefront of not just minimizing environmental impact, but maximizing the opportunity to promote recycling and renewable resources.
For example, according to Print Grows Trees, the printing and paper industry actually helps prevent deforestation because landowners who need to make money will reforest their land with new trees when they see the value in it. If they can't profit off of their forestlands, then they will remove the forests permanently rather than reforest it. As a result, the printing and paper industry helps grow new trees and printers have a deep respect for the environment, which is seen in all of the ways they recycle and reuse not just paper but other equipment such as toner cartridges as well.
Electronic Media's Carbon Footprint is Anything But Green
FACT: Going paperless does NOT mean going green, and 8 in 10 American consumers agree.
Research conducted by Two Sides NA reports that 80% of U.S. consumers believe that these unsubstantiated claims made by businesses who are begging their customers to "go paperless" in order to "save trees" and "protect the environment" is nothing more than "marketing hype" that is driven by "cost savings."
FACT: According to estimates, small network equipment in American homes "consumed more than $1 billion worth of electricity in 2012, equivalent to the output of three large (500 MW) coal fired power plants. This resulted in 5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions or the annual tailpipe emissions of 1.1 million vehicles." (Source: Two Sides NA via Natural Resources Defense Council, 2013)
The PGAMA further reports that "server farms that power computers have become the fastest growing users of fossil fuel in the world, and the amount of energy they use is doubling every year." Meanwhile, paper in the U.S. is made from over 60% biofuels, and paper mills use whatever is left over to generate bioenergy on site. This helps reduce the carbon footprint of paper, decrease coal dependency, divert waste away from landfills, and help meet green energy goals that have a positive impact on the environment.
"It's okay to print this email..."
Based on the facts, one can easily see that sustainable print is the truth. It is not always easy to counter incorrect messaging that is wrongfully associated with an industry, but it is only right to try. That is why there are so many printing industry advocates who are working hard to promote the true facts about print sustainability.
One Minuteman Press franchise owner has added the following postscript to his emails, which helps dispel the misconceptions of print and paper in a clear, concise, and clever way:
"It's okay to print this email. Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, recyclable and sustainable product made from trees. Trees are a harvestable crop, no different than wheat or corn and vital to the American economy as well as the environment."
The message concludes, "Not printing this email does absolutely nothing to save the planet or forests."
This email signature is backed up by the fact that paper comes from tree farms that are managed by landowners and pose no threat to rainforests, jungles or animal life. Paper Because reports that "for every tree harvested, several more are planted or naturally regenerated in their place." The report continues, "According to the USDA Forest Service, four million trees are planted every day in the United States. Of this amount, the wood and paper products industry plants on average 1.7 million trees daily."
So the next time you are asked to go paperless, keep these facts in mind.
And, of course, feel free to print this article.