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Is Paperless Really Greener?

March 9, 2018 In Industry News

One challenge we often hear from consumers and our partners in the printing industry involves the desire to “go green.”  Since we consume paper, and paper is made from trees, we are assumed to be part of the problem.

However, you might be surprised to learn the printing industry creates a positive impact on the environment.  Avoiding paper and print might be the wrong response, if you want to protect the environment – here’s why:

Paper is Recycled Heavily

According to the American Forest & Paper Association, over 65% of all paper used in the United States is recovered for recycling.  Recycled paper has a surprisingly long life span as well.  Paper can be recycled up to 7 times before it is rendered unusable.  As a result, each piece of paper has more potential than what most consumers might realize.

Currently, recycled paper accounts for roughly 35% of all new paper production.  That number is expected to grow to nearly 40% in the coming years.

Growth Exceeds Harvest

In the United States, we grow more trees than we harvest according to the USDA Forest Service.  In fact, in recent years it has been estimated that the U.S. forest footprint has grown by  roughly 6,000 football fields per day.  The printing and paper industries have been some of the biggest leaders and investors in the growth of forestland.

Due to responsible growth strategies, the paper, print and forest industries have been able to successfully increase the volume of trees growing on forestland by nearly 50%, improve production procedures to harness renewable energy, and manage natural habitats for many animal species needing assistance.

More Significant Impacts Exist

While the lumber industry has been equally aggressive in protecting our forest, they are the majority consumer of trees compared to the paper industry.  Lumber accounts for 64% of all tree production in the United States.

Electronic devices continue to have an increasingly harmful impact on our environment in comparison.  Electronic waste, or e-waste, is one of the largest waste streams in the world and one of the fastest growing waste segments.  These devices are less compatible with current recycling processes, and limit a manufacturer’s ability to extend the lifespan of a product.

Paper Funds Environmentally Responsible Consumers

The print, paper, and mail industry employs nearly 9 million people in the United States.  Through educational programs and industry knowledge, these consumers are more aware of their impact on the environment and its essential role in preserving their career.  The landowners who grow and maintain trees for production receive revenue that encourages the continued maintenance and preservation of their valuable resources.

Paperless Campaigns Are Not About Environment

In a recent poll of consumers by TwoSides.org, 87% of Americans believed paperless campaigns were effective due to clever marketing and a perceived cost savings, and not about environment impact.  As a result, recent crackdowns have been made on these “Greenwashing” claims to end their damaging claims.

“Greenwashing” is the intentional misleading of consumers regarding environmental benefits of a product or service.  Green marketing efforts must be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.  As a result, over 170 leading companies have removed misleading claims about printing and paper from their marketing and packaging.

It can be easy to assume the harmful relationship the printing and paper industry can have with the environment when misleading claims have flooded the industry.  However, cutting business relationships with the paper and printing industry might just weaken one of the largest contributors to our growing, prosperous forestland.

Next time you consider going paperless, don’t simply think about the trees – think about who plants them.