Why Print Is Greener Than You Think
The phrase "going green" has become ingrained in our communal psyche. Some say its roots date back to Thoreau in the mid-nineteenth century, or perhaps to Rachel Carson's 1962 breakthrough book,
It is shorthand for environmentalism; that is, living a life that is friendly to the natural environment, and taking steps to preserve the planet. So going green is not just passive. We must actively work at minimizing the harm we do to the environment. No one can argue that it's the right thing to do.
The print industry has become a natural target for the green movement. Quotes like "Please consider the environment before printing this email" are commonplace.
But it's not a black-and-white issue. If you look at some facts about paper production as well as the amount of energy used during digital consumption, a more balanced picture emerges. There are two sides to the "Going Green" debate.
We believe there are 5 key things to keep in mind...
1. Digital Printing Is a Green Choice
Without even getting into the paper-vs.-online debate, consider a primary attribute of digital printing: it lets you print exactly the number of pieces you need, and no more. Gone are the days when the only choice was to print offset, and you often ended up with hundreds or thousands of printed pieces going to waste. With digital presses, waste is eliminated. Paper, chemicals, electric power and other consumables are conserved.
2. Paper Is Recycled
Paper is one of the most recycled products worldwide.1 As of 2013, more paper products in the U.S. were recovered for recycling than any other materi al - including glass, plastics and metal. Over 63% of direct mail is recycled. And all available recovered paper fiber is being used in the global marketplace, according to Two Sides North America.
3. Most Paper Is Made from Recovered Paper
Saying that avoiding paper will save trees is a myth. The paper industry is a vocal and ardent advocate of responsible forestry. Most paper in North America is not made from timber forests; it's made from sawmill residues and recovered paper.2 In fact, only 11% of the trees that are harvested for production are used to make paper, according to the Printing Industries Alliance.
4. The Paper Industry Is Helping Conserve Forests
There are more trees in the U.S. today than there were 100 years ago - and we have 20% more trees today than we did on the first Earth Day back in 1970. Paper mills are not cutting down "old-growth" forests to make paper. Nearly all of the wood used in paper production comes from tree farms. These are acres of trees grown as a renewable resource - much like broccoli or wheat. According to the USDA Forest Service, four million trees are planted every day in the U.S. And of this amount, the North America paper industry plants an average of 1.7 million trees daily - far more than it cuts down.
5. Email and the Internet Aren't So Green After All
Paper's an easy target because it's tangible. But this shouldn't give electricity and online activities a free pass. Consider the carbon footprint of an email. According to the Radicati Group, the number of emails received and sent daily worldwide is approximately 205 billion. This number is expected to grow annually, to the tune of 2.4 million emails per second. Then consider that U.S. data centers, which store emails, attachments and shared photos, consumed an estimated 70 billion kWh - or 1.8% of total U.S. electricity consumption, as of 2014. TwoSides North America reported that U.S. data centers consumed enough electricity as of 2013 to power every household in NYC twice over.
We simply ask that you consider both sides of the paper-vs.-online debate when environmentalism is at stake. The U.S. print and paper industries are hyper-aware of keeping their manufacturing practices as green as possible.
Print is greener than most people think, and print drives commerce.
Recent studies have shown paper to be a medium of choice in many instances. In an upcoming newsletter, we'll touch on the unique ways that paper-based materials can leave a lasting impression on your audience.