As many of you may know we issued a letter to Google on January 8, urging the company to re-consider its participation in the paperless2013 campaign and reminding them that using vague and unsubstantiated environmental claims and images (i.e. save a tree) to promote electronic media over paper is a form of greenwashing.
Many of you liked the letter and decided to cover it as a news item, distribute it or even write your own letter. On behalf of Two Sides I would like to thank everyone who helped raise awareness on this important topic. Special thanks go to the PrintMediaCentr for their engagement and assistance in reaching a much wider audience.
This was another great example of many of us in the graphic communications value chain standing up to defend the sustainable features of print and paper.
The economic value of our combined sectors is something that corporations and groups such as the Paperless2013 Coalition should not forget. In summary:
- 8.7 million Americans rely on the print, paper and mail value chain for their livelihood (1.1 trillion dollars in revenue).
- In the US there are over 10 million US family forest owners, many of whom rely on income from their forestland to continue managing it sustainably.
- Most of us are customers of Google and their “paperless 2013” allies and we don’t appreciate the “anti-paper” messaging. It is damaging to our industry and our livelihood.
- The money we spend on their services and products comes from the print, paper and mail value chain.
- There are thousands of US college students who are studying paper science and engineering, graphic communications and other programs where print and paper is essential to their future careers.
Switching from paper to electronic products or services doesn’t necessarily result in a more sustainable outcome from an environmental, social and economic point of view. It depends on many factors and product lifecycle aspects that many companies are failing to consider when they make environmental claims related to going paperless.
Electronic gadgets rely on a growing supply of non-renewable and often rare materials, and the recycling rate of electronic is low compared to paper. E-waste is growing at an alarming rate and becoming an environmental and social problem in many developing countries. Online communications may not be as effective as print on paper for “deep reading” and understanding concepts.
For many applications, print and paper is hard to beat.
Two Sides believes that many, even Google, recognize the value of print and paper. In fact, they just won a USA today print advertising competition. To quote Robert Wong, Chief Creative Officer at the Google Creative Lab in New York:
“Every medium has its strengths, and for print, they include immediacy in that a newspaper is good for news…a full-page ad in a newspaper says the ad is important.”
Ironic isn’t it.
All we ask is that companies stop spouting negative environmental messages about print on paper to promote electronic media and services which also have pros and cons. Both media can co-exist and have great synergies. In many ways they complement each other. Rather that creating us vs. them scenarios, we need to focus on responsible production and use of all products and services. It’s not just good for the environment and for the U.S. economy… it’s the right thing to do.
Phil Riebel, President, Two Sides U.S.