For a long time, the printing and publishing industry was letting the e-media industry win the PR battle on green. E-media had positioned itself as the environmental alternative to print simply because of its lack of paper. In reality, however, the power consumption required to support the e-media industry creates an environmental nightmare.
For awhile, our industry seemed willing to lie down and take it. After all, print was dying anyway, right? But then in came the calvary. There have been a growing number of campaigns like Do You Know the Facts? and Print Grows Trees, as well as detailed initiatives from companies like International Paper, that pull together statistics from the American Forest & Paper Association, the U. S. Department of Energy, and private industry that provide a commanding rebuttal.
Here are some of my favorite data points:
- The energy used by the average data center could power 25,000 households. — Data Centers: How to Cut Carbon Emissions & Costs, McKinsey Company
- 62 trillion spam email are sent every year, producing the same greenhouse gas emissions as using 2 billion gallons of gasoline. — Carbon Footprint of Spam Email, McAfee
- Over the past 25 years, the average U.S. data center increased its energy consumption by 24%. Meanwhile, the U.S. pulp and paper industry decreased its energy use by 42%. — “Down to Earth,” International Paper
- The paper industry uses 11% of the total forestland used. The lumber industry uses 28%. The energy industry uses 53%. — “Down to Earth,” International Paper.
- U. S. mills generate two-thirds of their energy onsite from renewable biomass. — 2010 AF&PA Sustainability Report
- U. S. pulp and paper mills and wood products facilities, together, produced 94% of the renewable fuel energy generated by all manufacturing facilities in all sectors. — U. S. Department of Energy (2008)
I’m glad to see the industry fighting back. At the same time, we need to do it responsibly. All of these data points were taken from a great site promoting the environmentally responsible nature of print, but not a single one of them was sourced. I spent an entire morning attempting to find the original sources but was only able to find about half of them.
This site was not unusual. Nearly all of these educational campaigns are characterized by unsourced data. Great talking points appear to simply be copied from one site to another, seemingly without any attempt to verify or attribute them.
If we are going to promote print as the green alternative to e-media, we need to do it responsibly. Online sites make it easy for information to go viral. But whether intentional or unintentional, it’s easy to put out (or perpetuate) misinformation, too. Documenting sources for our talking points lends credibility to our argument. After all, at some point, a client, a prospect, or a competitor might check up on us. Our story becomes that much more powerful when we can back it up.