Here we have reached our last, perhaps most concentrated, misconception that print is bad for the environment? If you use toilet paper, paper towels, or buy packaged goods in the store (thinking cereal or anything else packaged in paper), then you are actually buying reminisces of recycled paper products.
There is a lot of distorted information presented about the effects that paper and paper products have on the environment. I’m sure you’re aware of the all too familiar “paperless” craze. But let’s not forget what Two Sides points out, there are always two sides to any argument and until you are aware of them both you will not fully understand them. Here are just a few in regards to paper waste.
Complaint: Paper waste causes deforestation.
Where there is no denying that it takes trees to use paper or that there was a point in history when (perhaps in a less conscious state of mind) we were less aware of our effects on the environment, the truth is that deforestation today is not due to the creation of paper. Phil Riebel from Two Sides North America explains that, “if trees are not used for paper they will go into lumber (majority of wood used today), biomass like pellets or other energy use, and hundreds of other products.” This is to say that “less paper does not mean less trees used in many areas.” Even if it were paper companies using 100% of all the trees (which we have already determined is a ridiculous notion), it does not change the fact that destroying the forests and managing their life cycles are two completely different things.
Riebel explains that “deforestation is a permanent loss of forests, which today is caused by numerous other factors besides forestry, ex: urbanization, development, agriculture, etc.” On the contrary, Sustainable Forest Management, as you can see clearly in North American forest practices, is not the destruction of, but the management of the forests in each stage of its lifetime. Like Riebel says “People get very emotional about it and they don’t see the life cycle of the forest.” The fact is that they are looking at the end result rather than the beginning or the middle of its life cycle. As a result, their eyes are only open to the harvesting of the trees rather than their renewability and the long-term sustainable management of the forest. In a way, that would be like judging the life of a person based solely on the death of that person.
Defense: Deforestation and Sustainable Forest Management are two different things.
Complaint: Paper waste is bad for the environment.
No one is going to argue that paper waste is good for the environment; however, as far as waste goes (and this includes our digital waste—not even e-mail comes without a price), paper is one of the healthier forms. Paper is one of the most recycled commodities in the world, with recovery rates of 65% and higher in most developed countries. Over the past few decades we have created programs and regulations, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)® and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)®, to make paper and print more sustainable than ever before. As a result, we have become better at reusing, recycling, and creating more products from recycled paper.
Defense: Paper waste can be reused, recycled, and it’s mostly biodegradable.
Complaint: Paper has a high carbon footprint
What exactly is a carbon footprint? According to Merriam Webster carbon footprint is
“the amount of greenhouse gases and specifically carbon dioxide emitted by something (as in a person’s activities or a product’s manufacture and transport) during a given period.” In order to understand what the actual carbon footprint of paper is, you must look at its entire life cycle from the collecting of trees to the disposal of paper. Two Sides has a great White Paper that explains: “For paper products, this life includes everything from harvesting trees through the manufacturing process to use and disposal or recycling.” The article also explains that the “…print and paper industry accounts for only 1.1% of global carbon dioxide emissions…” Likewise, “the paper industry is the biggest user of renewable, low carbon energy” (read more here). So, where does that leave us?
Defense: The carbon footprint of paper is highly exaggerated and far less impactful than many people believe it to be.
From communication, to packaging, to toilet paper and paper towels, paper is one of the most versatile materials that exist in our culture. We have many uses for it and we use it until it cannot be used anymore. Although, it has been a bumpy road to get here, as it stands today we understand the reality of paper usage and how to recycle it and that is not the case with other materials, like electronics (we really don’t know how those will affect the environment). As a result, for us, paper is even more viable of a tool. This is, perhaps, the greatest misconception of the print industry and this is just one small piece to a larger puzzle. There are many other misconceptions in way of print (such as ink and the printing process). But that, my friends, is a topic for another day.
For much more information on the Myths and Facts of Print and Paper see www.twosidesna.org
Jennifer Grace is a proud to be millennial who works as a Sales & Marketing Specialist at The Dingley Press. Dingley specializes in catalog printing and Jen is lucky enough to be stationed in the manufacturing facility where the presses run 24/7. When it comes to print and catalogs, one thing is for sure, Jen does not lack enthusiasm. To read more of her articles you can check out Dingley’s blog site or connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.