Earth Day is always a good time to reflect on the relationship of the print industry to the environment. Often the first example people give about how to ‘save the environment’ involves limiting their use of paper. Emails will have messages at the bottom cautioning to save the environment by only printing if absolutely necessary. Recycling efforts historically have focused on paper. From these vantage points the print industry can really look like a villain bent on destroying the earth.
Make no mistake, at Porath we are all for sustainability and saving the earth – for every possible reason. We are also (obviously!) big fans of the print industry. Let’s look at some facts:
- Paper is recycled more than any other material in North America (66.8%) and is made with a high percentage of renewable energy.
- Electronic devices are complex and expensive to recycle, recover, or reuse due to the toxicity of many of the components.
- ‘Go Paperless, Go Green’ campaigns may sound environmentally friendly. The environmental impact is debatable, but the financial savings to the companies promoting this is not.
- Digital devices – and networks and cloud-based servers – require a great deal of energy to run and to be produced. Chances are that the coal needed to power your digital life is causing massive deforestation and environmental devastation through a coal mining process in Appalachia called ‘mountain-top removal.’
- The majority of trees harvested in the US and Canada (>64%) are used for lumber, not paper.
- As long as there is a demand for wood, forests will be sustained and expanded. If the demand decreases, there is no longer a financial incentive to protect them, leading the way to deforestation and conversion of that land to other uses. Once they are paved over, reforestation is almost impossible.
- According to PrintIsBig.com:
- Spam email wastes 33 billion kilowatt hours annually, which is the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from 3.1 million cars and 2 billion gallons of fuel
- The average person wastes 2.4 times more energy powering a single computer than the energy used to produce the paper they use each year
There is no doubt the print industry can do better in managing sustainability and environmental costs. There are new fast growing plants and trees that show promise and processing materials that produce less contaminants.
In the meantime, we are committed to doing our part for sustainability and a healthy environment.