Is Paper-Free Really Better for the Environment?
“Go Paperless!” How many statements have you received from your bank, utility provider, or credit card company with this message? Many companies are trying to convince their customers to switch to online or “e-statements” in the name of environmentalism. However, are e-statements really greener than paper ones?
Greenwashing and Paperless Statements
Greenwashing occurs when a company tells customers that they are making changes to policies in the name of becoming a greener company, when in fact these changes are financially or otherwise motivated.
While going paperless may seem like a green initiative on its face, could a company’s paperless statement crusade be an example of greenwashing? Paper is a renewable, highly recyclable resource. In the last 50 years, forests in the United States have stabilized or even increased. In fact, the country has about 49 percent more wood resources now than it did in the 1960s.
How Green are E-Statements?
If that’s the case, why are companies going paperless in an attempt to go green? In a recent survey, 84 percent of respondents believe that the true motive behind many companies’ paperless campaigns is cost savings, not environmental concerns. Another survey found that 80 percent of consumers do not think it’s appropriate for companies to cite environmental reasons for going paperless when they are not the true motive.
Though paper is a renewable, highly recyclable resource, many of the materials and energy required to receive e-statements are not. Computers and servers require a sizeable amount of energy and give off a lot of heat. Rare minerals must be pulled from the Earth to create computers, tablets, and smartphones. Though paperless statements may save a company the cost of a stamp, they may not do the environment a whole lot of good.
Digital Printing a Green Choice
For companies trying to make a true difference to the environment, digital printing is an effective choice. Digital printing presses do not emit the harmful chemicals their offset counterparts do. Not only does that mean less harmful chemicals being released into the atmosphere, it also means digital presses require less energy to ventilate. Digital printing presses also use low VOC-ink and mild solvents, which are much better for air quality than inks used in offset printing.