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going paperless: not as green as you think


The going paperless movement is certainly not new. Feelings of guilt and social responsibility about the fate of trees are the driving force and that going paperless will help save the environment. How many of you have this information at the bottom of your email:

“Please consider the environment before you print this email”

Does this seemingly well-intentioned plea suggest that digital communication is greener than paper based communication? If you want to do some good for the environment and save some trees, then going paperless is not as green as you may think.

As members of Two Sides Australia, The Print Group Australia would like to offer some perspective on the “going paperless” movement and that it’s ok to print. This is what we have at the bottom of our email:

“Please don’t be alarmed or feel guilty; it’s OK to print this email. Paper is a biodegradable, compostable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provides jobs for millions of men and women. Sustainable forests are good for the environment, providing clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage”

We all use electronics and technology and there are real issues surrounding e-waste and its environmental impact. The effort to go “paperless” to save the environment, does contradict the exact nature of the message as e-waste offers environment impacts too. Did you know that “Australians are among the highest users of technology, and e-waste is one of the fastest growing types of waste” (1).

It’s important that consumers look beyond the marketing messages about “going green” and understand the environmental aspects and impacts of both print and digital media, so they can make informed decisions.

Our main point today is not that print is superior or preferable to digital media, but rather opens the discussion that digital media choices have environmental consequences and the marketing rhetoric of going paperless, is not all what it seems.

From our friends at Two Sides Australia “Print and Paper is Renewable, Recyclable and Powerful, and has been the preferred communications medium for 2,000 years. In a multimedia world, it continues to be highly effective and, used responsibly, is inherently sustainable”.(2)

(1) http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Products/4602.0.55.005~2013~Main+Features~Electronic+and+Electrical+Waste?OpenDocument

(2) http://twosides.org.au/AU/Australian-Bureau-of-Statistics-looks-at-e-waste-impact