Since the first observance of Arbor Day in Nebraska in 1872 with the planting of about one million trees, Americans have used the holiday as an occasion to reflect on the importance of trees and forests. Arbor Day became an official, legal holiday in 1885 and is always celebrated on the last Friday in April. Since Arbor Day is a day that encourages the planting of trees, many states observe the holiday on different dates throughout the year based on best tree planting times in their area. But along with planting trees, this observance also should remind us that wood products like paper are a sustainable, renewable resource.
“Each generation takes the earth as trustees.”
─ J. Sterling Morton, originator of Arbor Day
It’s not just on Arbor Day that IWCO Direct celebrates the sustainable choice that printing and paper provide for powerful communications. We take our environmental responsibilities seriously. We work with our vendors and NGOs to ensure the paper that goes into our direct mail marketing comes from sustainably managed forests and is produced by manufacturers who also take their environmental stewardship seriously. Let’s review why paper-based communications is an environmentally responsible choice.
Myths About Paper and Forests
There are many myths about paper use, including that it is bad for the environment. We often hear that going green—in this context, paperless—saves trees and forests or that electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than paper-based communication. The reality is paper is one of the few truly sustainable products. Far from being a finite resource, forests are a renewable resource that is continuously replenished using sustainable forest management programs. Both electronic and paper-based communications impact the environment. Replacing paper with digital options may be no “greener” when you consider the (often carbon-based) electricity used to power our devices or the amount of e-waste, including heavy metals, from disposing devices that have reached end-of-life.
In a recent article in The Hill, Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), who holds a master’s degree in forestry from Yale University, observed, “The key to keeping forests healthy and resilient is strong demand for forest products—coupled with a commitment to replant more trees than we harvest”—which is exactly what the forest products industry is doing. Through sustainable forest management practices, net forest area in the U.S. has been stable since the early 1900s, and each year forests in the U.S. and Canada grow significantly more wood than is harvested.
North American Paper is a Responsible Choice
A recent fact sheet from Two Sides North America notes that sustainable forest management is well established in North America, and the North American paper industry continues to improve in terms of key environmental indicators such as greenhouse gas emission and energy use.
Paper recovery rates in North America are among the highest in the world. Recent data show the amount of paper being recycled in the U.S. at 66% and 70% in Canada, with those numbers continuing to increase. While paper recycling is important, and paper can be recycled up to seven times before the fibers break down, we need a continuous supply of fresh fiber harvested from responsibly managed forests. That’s why we’re supporters of third-party forest certification programs and hold Forest Stewardship Council® chain-of-custody certification ourselves.
Forest certification promotes practices that result in economically viable, ecologically sound, and socially just outcomes. We’ve engaged with Canopy Planet, a not-for-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting forests, species, and climate. Canopy has led the effort to bring businesses and conservationists together to preserve the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia. We are currently leveraging their newly launched ForestMapper tool to gain an even better understanding of the sources of wood fiber in the paper we use.
Sustainable Paper-Based Marketing
If direct mail is an important component of your marketing mix, here are a few tips to make your direct mail more sustainable:
- Choose FSC-certified papers from sustainably managed forests.
- Consider paper grades with recycled content.
- Encourage your recipients to recycle by using the Recycle Please logo on your direct mail.
- Plan your marketing campaign to target only those recipients who will consider your offer relevant and appealing.
- Be a good postal citizen and be sure the addresses on your list are complete, correct, and current, to ensure your mailpiece will reach its intended recipient.
And one bonus suggestion:
- Using a plastic promotional card? Ask your IWCO Direct account team about options with recycled and recyclable content.
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