Why conserving doesn’t mean eliminating paper

Today the world celebrates “Earth Day,” and while I wholeheartedly support protecting the environment and not wasting resources, I do have a bit of a beef with all these claims about how we can conserve. Of course, I own a print and marketing company, so when I saw people encouraging others to cut back on paper, I thought I would dig a little deeper into these claims about the environmental effects of paper. I’d like to share some of the statistics I found, and hopefully we can all reconsider what really needs to be done to help conserve and protect our environment.

While it may be true that wasted paper contributes to harming our environment, many earth day supporters are forgetting that digital and electronic devices can be far worse. Using paper does kill trees, but electronic devices typically require the mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals, as well as other non-renewable resources. You’ll also notice that earthday.org doesn't instruct people to give up paper. In fact, the main headings on their “Take Action” page say nothing about paper waste, but focus primarily on e-waste. In the United States alone we produce up to 50 million tons of e-waste a year, which releases hazardous chemicals into our soil and water.

When you think about it, printing is one of the few mediums with a one-time carbon footprint.  According to ChoosePrint.org, 63.5% of all paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in 2012. Additionally, 91% of the trees consumed in the United States to make paper come from privately owned forests,which give private landowners a financial incentive to grow trees rather than sell off their land for other uses. The American Forest and Paper Association proudly reports that today the US has 20% more tree than it did on the 1st earth day in 1970.

I support the use of digital media and technology. In fact, I think both go hand in hand with paper. Studies show that the most effective marketing mix is a combination of print and digital materials. In essence, the key to protecting the environment is to avoid waste. Alexander’s makes that our goal.  Our short–run book service allows clients to order as few as one copy of their book. We keep a digital copy of the book on-hand so we can avoid wasting paper, and the client can save money by only ordering the exact amount they need. When demand increases, we print more for them. We recycle any unused paper that comes out of our plant, and we work hard to make sure your print job is done right the first time, eliminating the excessive use of energy in our printers, while ensuring you are content with your product.  So when you think about helping to protect the environment, look for a printer who aims to do the same.

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