The reason for my rant today, is having read several pleas lately from several organizations that want me to save a tree…go electronic. On the surface this probably sounds like the right thing to do, and in fact switching to electronic billing for instance, does make sense for many of us. It can simplify our monthly bill paying process and does in fact save paper. The thing that bugs me about this though, is the real reason they would like you to switch – it is not the paper so much as it is the savings of postage and eliminating the need to print your statements. In fact, according to Shamel Naguib, president at Paperless Productivity – an organization that helps medium to large companies reduce or eliminate their paper documents, “in 99.9% of projects, the green initiative has nothing to do with it – it has everything to do with saving money!” Anytime someone can save money, it is good – but I also don’t suspect they will lower your monthly bill by an equivalent amount when choosing this option 🙂
While on this subject, it is also important to note, that while many people believe that print is only destroying our trees, in reality there are actually the same number of acres of forest land in the U.S. as there was 100 years ago! In fact, in the prime paper producing area between Minnesota and Maine, forest coverage has increased by 28% according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And, 65% of paper products were in fact recycled as of the year 2012!
To take this one step further, perhaps the strongest detractor in the growth of electronic media as opposed to print, is that very little of our electronic devices are being recycled. In fact we are adding around 40 million tons a year of electronic waste. I am pretty sure I would not want this in my back yard! The energy required to produce these devices and power them is also much higher than what it takes to produce paper. The average amount of energy to produce the microchip in one electronic device is between 360 to 720 kWh, compared to 500 kWh to produce the average amount of paper you will use in one year.
I understand there needs to be a balance between what we print and what we share electronically, and that all of us need to be eco-friendly much more than what we are now. I would suggest that evaluating the types of materials we print and especially the number of copies we print of a given brochure or mail piece is critical – to not only being environmentally friendly, but also to our bottom line. Over the last 5-10 years much more emphasis has been placed on the idea of targeted marketing, which ultimately means you are reducing the number of printed pieces in favor of engaging only those that might be interested. The use of digital print processes have also made it much more economical to print in smaller quantities.
It has taken us a long time to begin to realize the importance of our environment! And even still, there are many that would suggest global warming is not real. In the last 10 – 20 years we have begun to critique the print industry for not being environmentally friendly – I would suggest it is also time we become a little more critical of the digital alternative, and look to start holding ourselves more accountable here as well.
So much for my rant today, but I would be curious as to how you feel about all of this?