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Print is NOT Dead: Can Print Be Green? Yes!

Posted by Sean Doherty on

think before printing

Note: This is part of a Blog Series entitled: Print is NOT Dead.

We have all seen variations of this message. “Think Before You Print” or “Think Before You Print this Email.” The goal of this message is to get people to print less in order to save the environment. But is it true? Based on the research outlined below, probably not. Many people feel guilty for printing out paper, but I am here to tell you that you shouldn’t. I have put together some guidelines regarding how you print that can enable you to be a good, sustainable printer. While many people generally believe that printing is not sustainable, the truth is that by following these guidelines, you can easily make smart green choices about printing.

Massive Amounts of Paper Recycling
As you no doubt know, paper can be recycled, but it might surprise you to know that, according to Two Sides, a global initiative sponsored by companies from the Graphic Communications Industry, “In 2012, over 65% of paper used in the United States was recovering for recycling.” As a marketer, you can encourage your company and your customers to recycle, and you can also work with printers to ensure that you are using recycled paper, chlorine-free paper, and organic inks or ink-free options such as blind embossing or die cutting. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as cited in Two Sides’ Myths and Facts, “In North America, paper is recycled more than any other commodity and the benefits include: extending the wood fiber supply; reducing greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding methane emissions (released when paper decomposes in landfills or is incinerated); contributing to carbon sequestration; reducing energy needed for paper production; and saving landfill space.”  The EPA offers a list of resources that can help you to make good choices when it comes to paper.

Planting Millions of Trees Every Day
printgrowstreesPaper is also a renewable resource. What does this mean? Renewable resources can be regrown or replenished in one or two human lifetimes. According to MarketingProfs in Six Common Print Marketing Myths Debunked, “Paper often comes from managed forests or farms, which replant about 4 million trees every day (four times more than they harvest).” The World Wildlife Fund, in their Guide to Buying Paper, states that, “Well-managed forests maintain biodiversity and other important ecosystem services such as protection of water sheds. These forests also provide benefits for local people.” Many forests around the world, however, are not managed sustainably. To make sure you’re using paper that comes from good sources, the WWF recommends looking for green certifications on the paper you and your printer use, such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) 100% Recycled, FSC Mixed Sources, ClimatePartner, or ISO 14,000.

Reduce Energy By Reading Paper
Reading on paper requires no energy, unlike reading on a screen, which requires batteries or AC power. MarketingProfs points out that, “Paper-based marketing has a smaller carbon footprint than digital marketing, since carbon emissions are only produced once, during the creation of the product. Meanwhile, carbon emissions occur every time someone uses a digital device. Even the act of producing a CD creates more CO2 emissions than printing a 100-page report in full color.” And, if you use a printer like HubCast close to the destination of your materials, you’ll save even more CO2. According to Two Sides, “Important characteristics make paper’s carbon footprint smaller than might be expected: it’s made from a renewable resource that stores carbon, is recyclable and is manufactured using mostly renewable energy including biomass, bio-gas and hydroelectricity.”

Go Forward and Print
Combined with the data discussed in previous blog posts, it’s clear that because your audience wants it, you still need to consider print as part of your marketing approach. As Two Sides points out, “The responsible manufacture and use of print and paper contributes to long-term, sustainable forest management in the US and Europe, and helps mitigate climate change.” Marketers can continue to use print, whether it’s for a global sales kick-off, a trade show, or a series of worldwide customer events, and still be environmentally conscious by following sustainable practices. Timber!

Note: This is part of a Blog Series entitled: Print is NOT Dead.

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