Go Green – How Going Paperless is Better For Mother Earth, NOT!

‐ November 12, 2013


Going green is the buzz today. Seems many want to go paperless and move everything electronically. Sounds good at first blush, but when you look at the true environmental impact, going paperless is far greater than printing it on paper.

No doubt that the paperless trend is less expensive than printing materials on paper, but electronic/paperless is usually less effective than solid printed materials and is more harmful to the environment.

Paper comes from trees, which are a renewable resource that, properly managed, provide both economic and ecosystem benefits. According to the latest data in The State of America’s Forests, a 2007 report by the Society of American Foresters, forested land in the US increased 49 percent from 1953 to 2006.

Using paper motivates private landowners, who provide most of the pulp for papermaking, to actually plant more trees. Private landowners plant about four million trees every day, which is three to four times more than they harvest. This gives them the income they need to maintain, renew and manage this valuable forest resource sustainably. Without that income, landowners face economic pressures to convert forestland to other uses, including growing more profitable crops or selling the land for development. (Source: International Paper-Go Paper, Grow Trees website.)

Computers and other electronic devices require the mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals as well as plastics that are refined from petroleum, hydrocarbon solvents and other non-renewable resources. Several key metals are classified as “conflict metals”, and their use from the Congo region requires reporting to the US government. Your computer monitor contains a high level of toxic materials that are hazardous to the environment.

According to the American Forest and Paper Association, paper in North America is made with about 60 percent renewable energy. According to the US Energy Information Administration, approximately 89 percent of the electricity used in the US comes from non-renewable fossil fuels.

Printed products have a one-time carbon footprint. Electronic devices, data centers and servers require a continuous supply of electricity. According to Greenpeace, if the global cloud was a country, its aggregate electricity demand would make it among the top five in the world. Many of these centers are located in areas powered by coal and other dirty sources of electricity. Some coal is obtained by mountain top removal mining, which decimates ecosystems.

Paper is one of the most recyclable materials ever conceived by man. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, 63.5 percent of all paper used in North America was recovered for recycling, which makes it one of the most recyclable materials. Paper is also biodegradable, thus when disposed of is less harmful to the environment.

According to EPA, in 2008 only 13.6 percent of all electronic waste was recycled, and the remaining 50 to 80 percent of the waste was shipped overseas to be dismantled. The dismantling process is unsafe for workers and surrounding communities, and usually involves burning the waste to recover the metals. (Source: Electronics Take Back Coalition). Plastic is not biodegradable and exists long after disposal.

If you are serious about going green you should print it, the environmental impact is far less than the “paperless” options, and promotional materials printed on paper more effectively reach and impact your prospects and customers.

When you put something tangible in the hands of your prospects you make more of an impression than something emailed. You are reading this now, but the fact is only a small percentage of people actually read their email, that is if you get through spam filters. When I mail you a post card and the card is designed well, you see it and you get the gist of what I am offering. You either respond for more information or you don’t. The point is you saw the advertisement. I also don’t have competition in the mailbox competing for the prospect’s attention and neither do you.

Then why am I sending emails? Well, it is part of a media mix. Emails used properly can be used to build and support your company’s brand. Email and Internet marketing should be part of your marketing program but not your sole form of promotion.

Mark Hale

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