Two Sides sends open letter to Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois in response to Earth Week paperless initiative


An open letter has been sent to Governor Pat Quinn - State of Illinois to highlight Two Sides' concerns regarding statements made about going paperless and promoting electronic communications as environmentally preferable to print and paper.

April 25, 2014

Governor Pat Quinn
Office of the Governor
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph, 16-100
Chicago, IL 60601

Re:  Misleading Press release on Green Initiative to Mark Earth Week

Dear Governor Quinn,

I read with disappointment a recent press release titled "Governor Quinn Announces Green Initiative to Mark Earth Week" encouraging government employees to participate in the State's "No Print Week".  Although I admire your desire to reduce environmental impacts, I disagree with the misleading message you are sending related to print and paper products.  Your message is damaging to the print and paper industry who have been such an important part of Illinois and the City of Chicago throughout history.

Today, the print, paper and mail value chain creates over 380,000 jobs in the State of Illinois ($62.1 billion in revenues) and a total of 8.4 million jobs across the United States (6% of total U.S. jobs and $1.3 trillion in sales revenue).  These statistics include production, distribution and handling of mail, paper production and printing.[i]  These people are part of many organizations who make daily efforts to be responsible corporate citizens by continuously reducing their environmental impacts and ensuring the responsible manufacture of print and paper products that we all benefit from.   The "paperless" message is often not well received, and indeed questioned[ii], by many of us in this value chain for reasons outlined in this letter.

You are correct in saying that trees are a precious resource that help generate oxygen and purify the air, prevent soil erosion and recycle water.  However, you should also mention that our trees and working forests are a renewable resource that is being managed responsibly throughout the State of Illinois and across the United States, and that this resource provides numerous social, environmental and economic benefits to our nation.[iii]   

Print on paper has unique environmental features that many other products and materials do not.  In addition to coming from a renewable resource, it is also recycled more than any other material in the United States[iv] and is made with a high percentage of renewable energy.[v]  You may be surprised to learn that, contrary to popular belief, papermaking is not depleting U.S. forests. In fact, the volume of trees growing on U.S. forestland increased 49% over the last 50 years.[vi]  The U.S. paper industry encourages and depends on sustainable forest management practices that regenerate billions of trees annually.

Far from causing deforestation, the demand for sustainably sourced paper in the United States promotes responsibly managed forests.  The income landowners receive for trees grown on their land is an important incentive to maintain, sustainably manage and renew this valuable resource. This is especially important in areas facing economic pressure to convert forestland to non-forest uses.[vii]  The fact is our working forests are an essential part of the U.S. environment and the economy.  The millions of U.S. family forest owners[viii]  and our many trained foresters would probably like you to retain these facts, especially those in Illinois.

You also point out the environmental impacts of our growing electronic infrastructure and the importance in recycling electronics.  While we clearly understand the cost and efficiency benefits of electronic communications and encourage waste reduction, Two Sides also wants to ensure that claims that promote electronic communication as more environmentally sustainable than print and paper are based on sound and peer-reviewed scientific evidence.  The direct impact of electronic products and services replacing paper is far from negligible, and the trade-offs between the two depends on how often we use the different technologies and how we dispose of the products.[ix]  Both electronic and print media are important, and both have environmental impacts that must be taken into consideration.  In fact, electronic communication has a significant and growing carbon footprint due to the energy requirements of a vast worldwide network of servers necessary to store information for immediate access.[x]   Electronic media also rely on significant amounts of fossil-fuel energy and non-renewable raw materials for processing and manufacturing.[xi]  With electronic waste becoming the fastest growing waste stream in the world, and its related environmental and health concerns in many countries,[xii] promoting electronic communications as the sole environmental choice is unfounded.

In reality, we live in an increasingly digital world where electronic and paper-based communication will coexist. Each has environmental impacts, and consumers deserve an honest portrayal.

Print and paper have unique sustainable features that are sometimes forgotten.  Our job at Two Sides is to remind people of these and to set the record straight about our industry.  I invite you to read our attached Earth Day blog titled An earth Day reminder about why print and paper can be environmentally sustainable.

Kind Regards,

Phil Riebel
President, Two Sides North America, Inc.

[i] Envelope Manufacturers Association, 2013. EMA 2012 Mailing Industry Job Study
[ii] Toluna and Two Sides US Consumer Survey, 2013
[iii] TAPPI Paper University ;  WWF, 2010
[iv] U.S. EPA, 2010 ; AF&PA
[v] Agenda 20/20 Technology Alliance, 2010 ; AF&PA, 2010
[vi] Society of American Foresters, 2007
[vii] UN FAO, 1995 ; WWF, 2010 ; WBCSD and NCASI, 2005
[viii] U.S. Forest Service, 2009
[ix] Arnfalk, P., 2010
[x] Gartner Consulting, 2007
[xi] Kruhr, R. and Williams, E. , 2004 ;  Computer Aid International, 2010 ;  Jinglei, Y. et al., 2010  
[xii] U.S. EPA, 2011 ; Hoang et al. 2010 ; UNEP, 2005