Print isn't Green? Myth BUSTED!


There are a lot of interests competing for marketing dollars today. As a result, the myth of print not being environmentally friendly has been very well promoted. Print is, in fact, not only environmentally friendly but one of the most sustainable industries around. So, let's bust some of these myths!  Read up on this for Earth Day - April 22nd!

Myth: Print Isn't Green

Being green does not mean using digital communication instead of print. 

Printed products are a renewable resource.  Once a printed product has served its purpose, it reenters the cycle as a new product.

63.5% of all paper consumed in the US was recovered for recycling in 2010.  Paper recovery for recycling has increased by 77% since 1990.  (International Paper, Go Paper, Grow Trees Website, Choose Print/AF&PA)

33% of paper comes from wood chips and sawmill scraps; another 33% comes from recycled paper. (US EPA/Choose Print)

Myth:  Electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than print.

Printing is the only medium with a one-time carbon footprint - all other media require energy every time they are viewed.  (2010 PrintCity report on Carbon and Energy)

In Europe and the US around 60% of energy used to make paper comes from renewable resources. (Carbon and Energy Reduction, Print City, 2010)

Spam email wastes 33 billion kilowatt hours annually, equivalent in greenhouse emissions to 3.1 million cars using 2 billion gallons of gas. (U.S. Energy Information Administration, Net Generation by Energy)

CO2 emissions from making a CD are 4 times higher than from printing a 100 page, 4-color annual report.  (ED #13, Balance, NewPage)

Electronic devices typically require the mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals, as well as the use of plastics, hydrocarbon solvents, and other non-renewable resources.

In 2008, Americans generated 3.16 million tons of electronic waste. (EPS, MSW 2008 data)

50 - 80% of electronic waste collected for recycling is shipped overseas and often unsafely dismantled.  (Facts and Figures on E-Waste and Recycling, Electronics Take Back Coalition)

Myth:  Using Paper Kills Trees

The primary raw material for paper is trees, a renewable resource.  The trees in North America used for paper production come from well-managed forests or farms (Print Grows Trees)

In the United States, two-thirds of the fiber used to make paper comes from sources other than fresh-cut trees.  One-third comes from wood chips and sawmill scraps, one-third comes from recycled paper, and just one-third comes from "new growth" trees. (EPA, Office of Solid Waste)  There are 200 paper mills in the United States that use recovered fiber exclusively. (American Forest and Paper Association)

Today the US has 20% more trees - 12 million more acres - than it did on the first Earth Day (AF&PA), which took place in the spring of 1970.

Private tree farmers plant about 4 million trees every day, which is 3-4 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 forest land to other uses, including growing other crops that are more profitable or selling the land for development.  In both cases, the forest is removed forever. (International Paper, Go Paper, Grow Trees website)

By providing a market for responsibly grown wood fiber, the US paper industry encourages forest land owners to continue managing their lands rather than selling them for development or other non-forest uses.  This is an especially important consideration in facing economic pressure to convert forest land to non-forest uses.  (Two Sides)

Jenny Payne