A response to “paperless” environmental claims

Submitted by: Phil Riebel 02/15/2012

February 15, 2012

Over the past year, colleagues and members have sent me numerous “anti-paper and print” environmental claims  from companies and individuals.  They range from large corporations promoting e-billing to “save trees and the planet” to e-mail taglines that urge people not to print to “help the environment”.  Many of these claims are considered misleading by those in the paper and print sectors who are familiar with the environmental features and life-cycle of print and paper products.

Two Sides has drafted a short letter for anyone to use in response to potentially misleading claims related to the use of print and paper.  The letter is included below and is also available as a PDF file.  Use it as you see fit.

Dear [INSERT NAME],

I noticed your statement about “going green” [OR INSERT RELEVANT STATEMENT] by avoiding the use of paper and print.  There are many factors to consider in determining whether paperless solutions have less negative impacts on the environment and our society. Please consider the following facts when making choices and statements related to print and paper.

Going electronic is not necessarily “greener” than print and paper.  The direct impact of electronic products and services replacing paper is far from negligible, and the trade-off between the two depends on how often we use them, the source of energy and how we dispose of the products [1].

Paper is made from renewable resources, and responsibly produced and used paper has many advantages over other, non-renewable alternative materials [2].

Paper is the most recycled material that we use [3].

It is made with a high percentage of renewable energy [4].

Over the last 50 years, the volume of trees growing on U.S. forestland increased 49% [5] .

The amount of U.S. forestland has remained essentially the same for the last 100 years [6].

The manufacture of forest products in the U.S. supports and promotes well-managed forests that provide many environmental, social and economic benefits [7].

Paper has unique features that make it a preferred choice for reading and storage of documents for 70% of Americans [8].

The livelihood of 8.7 million Americans depends on our U.S. mail industry, including the production of print and paper [9].

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates misleading environmental claims or “greenwashing” [10].   The FTC states that “environmental marketing claims should not, expressly or by implication, exaggerate the environmental impact of the product or service advertised.  In addition, all those who make environmental claims must possess, at the same time the claims are made, substantiation for each such claim [11].”

Given the above facts, please consider changing or removing your environmental statement regarding print and paper or contact me to discuss this matter in more detail.  If you would like more information on the sustainability of print and paper, see www.twosides.us.

Thank you for your attention.

References:

Arnfalk, P., 2010

TAPPI Paper University ;  WWF, 2010

U.S. EPA, 2010 ; AF&PA

Agenda 20/20 Technology Alliance, 2010 ; AF&PA, 2010

Society of American Foresters, 2007

USDA Forest Service, 2010

UN FAO, 1995 ; WWF, 2010 ; WBCSD and NCASI, 2005

Two Sides U.S., 2012

Direct Communications Group, 2011

U.S. FTC Press Release, 2009

U.S. FTC Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims