Save the trees, don’t print? No, paper is a sustainable way to communicate

Print Grows Trees

Save the trees, don’t print.  I hate seeing this message at the bottom of documents on my computer.  It is an easy thing for marketers to say, to make them, and you, feel good about saving time and money with electronic communication.  This falsehood carries over in to all forms of print, not just those emails, making everyone believe that paper is bad. Printing is bad.  But is it really?  Would you say, “Save the tomatoes, don’t eat pizza”?  It is a fallacy that electronic media is more environmentally friendly than print.

Paper is a sustainable way to communicate.  Print Grows Trees provides some facts about the environmental benefits of printed paper:

Printed paper is made from a renewable resource. Trees can be replanted in places where they were harvested and also in places where they don’t currently grow. As much as we love our electronic devices, they don’t grow on trees or anywhere else.

54.7 percent of all paper in the U.S. is currently recycled.

Printed paper can be recycled, recovered and reused. The systems that are in place for these processes are widely available and have become more efficient and sophisticated over the many years they have existed. In contrast, electronic devices are much more complex and expensive to recycle, recover and reuse due to the toxic nature of many of their components, and current systems are still in the early stages.

The average data center serving our electronic devices consumes the same amount of energy as 25,000 households.

The paper we use to print in the U.S. is made from more than 60 percent biofuels. Paper mills use what’s left over from the manufacturing process to generate bioenergy on site. This serves to:

  • Divert waste from landfills
  • Decrease the overall carbon footprint of paper products
  • Decrease dependency on coal and other fossil fuels
  • Help meet green energy goals in America

By contrast, 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.

I, along with printers all around the world, was very surprised to find that Toshiba America Business Solutions has announced that Oct. 23, 2012, will be “National No-Print Day.” Toshiba wants to “raise awareness of the impact printing has on our planet” and of “the role of paper in the workplace.   The European organization, Two Sides,  has challenged Toshiba’s ‘No Print Day’ as Greenwash .

Printing Industries of America’s President and CEO Michael Makin had this to say:

“Printing is the only medium with a one-time carbon footprint—all other media require energy every time they are viewed. Electronic devices, which Toshiba produces, for example, require the mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals, as well as the use of plastics, hydrocarbon solvents, and other non-renewable resources. Moreover 50–80 percent of electronic waste collected for recycling is shipped overseas and is often unsafely dismantled. For Toshiba to call for such a ban on printing is hypocritical to say the least.”

I have a previous Blog post about my experience with printed maps versus electronics.  Surprise:  Print and electronics work together to provide more value.  Why would Toshiba, who makes printers, and fax machines completely loose sight of this?

UPDATE:  Toshiba has agreed to abort its National No-Print Day!

About hollybudd

I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. I have a BS in Environmental Studies from Cook College, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I returned to school for a MBA from Trinity DC. I am the president/CEO of Williams & Heintz Map Corporation, the family printing company that was started by my great grandfather.

Posted on June 15, 2012, in News, Sustainability and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Holly,
    Thanks so much for your post. I am amazed at the hypocrisy of Toshiba’s “No Print Day” I recently wrote a blog post on the same subject of print, paper and the lies told about it.
    Thank you for your message as well!

  2. Holly,

    Thanks for the education. Paper companies plant their own trees. So, there are no trees being saved if you don’t print.

    Also, as you mentioned, electronic communications present a whole host of different environmental issues that the “don’t print” crowed is happy to overlook. What about all of the energy used to run your computers? What about all of the batteries used to power the mobile devices? Plus, what about all of the industries that would be idled by “no printing”?

    If used responsibly, ink and paper are just as environmentally friendly as any other means of communication; except talking.


  3. Thanks Chris, Marc,
    I think this an opportunity to spread the message, that printed maps, books, and such are a sustainable and effective way to communicate: To spread the message beyond the print and paper community. We just need to turn our indignation into blogs and facebook posts, and take this viral.

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