Trees are not in jeopardy. Toshiba might be. Toshiba America Business Solutions recently set off a firestorm in the printing community by declaring October 23 as “National No Print Day” under the guise of protecting trees.
Many of us in the printing industry were simultaneously stunned and astounded. How could a manufacturer of printing equipment base a campaign on the inaccurate and irresponsible notion that trees are somehow in danger? After all, if anyone should know better it’s a company like Toshiba.
We need to set the record straight. Trees aren’t in jeopardy – not today, not tomorrow and not 50 years from now. In fact, here are the facts:
- Trees are a renewable resource.
- The U.S. has 20% more trees than it did more than 40 years ago. (American Forest & Paper Association)
- 63.5% of all paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling in 2010. Paper recovery for recycling has increased by 77% since 1990. (American Forest & Paper Association)
- 33% of paper comes from wood chips and sawmill scraps; another 33% comes from recycled paper. (EPA)
Toshiba is rightfully the target of ridicule. Everyone from the Printing Industries of America, to DeadTreeEdition to Whattheythink has chimed in. Many, like Two Sides are accusing Toshiba of greenwashing. The negative comments posted on the Facebook page they created for the “event” greatly outnumber the positive ones. And I would imagine there have been more than a few antacids taken by Toshiba sales reps who were probably blindsided by this feel-good, but off-base campaign.
Electronic Carries a Carbon Footprint
But this speaks to a more troubling trend. We’re noticing more and more correspondence calling for customers to “save a tree” by signing up for electronic communications, such as monthly statements. The logic seems to be that electronic communication is as green as it gets and has zero impact on the environment. After all, when you send a text or receive an email no raw materials are used, no noticeable emissions are emitted; no fuel is wasted, right?
Of course not. Here are two important facts on electronic waste:
- Greenpeace claims e-waste is one of the fastest growing types of waste.
- Only 18% of all electronic devices are recycled, with 1.84 million tons of devices winding up in landfills in 2006. (International Paper “Down to Earth” report)
This isn’t to say Print = Good, Electronic = Bad or vice versa. It’s to say we need a more honest discussion about these issues. While we appreciate Toshiba wanting to start a conversation, stunts such as “National No Print Day” aren’t the solution. As marketers, we all need to be champions of the environment, but also champion of the strides we’ve made!
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