Earlier this week, I stopped into my local Verizon Wireless store to pay my bill and save a stamp. After making my payment, the salesperson went to print my receipt, and while he was away from the desk, I received one by text. When he got back, I joked about the double receipt and said that, while Verizon’s text negatively impacted the environment by pulling power off the grid, hopefully he’d counteracted that negative impact by printing one out. He looked confused.
I told him that, by using paper, he was helping to preserve America’s forests. This Millennial leaned forward and wanted to know more.
We talked about how 60% of America’s forests and commercially owned, and if the landowners can’t make money by selling forest products, those forests risk being sold off for other uses, such as real estate development and agriculture. His eyes widened.
We talked about how landowners can optimize their forests for various recreational uses by attracting different types of wildlife depending on how the forest is managed. Create more open spaces with low underbrush and you’ll attract more deer, for example. Using the right practices, you can even draw in different species of birds. That translates into the ability to manage your forest for specific types of desired recreational income, such as hiking, birdwatching, ATV riding, or hunting.
“I had no idea!” he exclaimed.
We talked about how two-thirds of the energy used to produce paper comes from renewable resources and how printers are among the heaviest users of renewable energy credits.
He thoroughly surprised by all of this, and it was abundantly clear that I was telling him things he didn’t know and wanted to hear. At the end of the conversation, which took no more than a few minutes, he had a completely different take on the value of paper.
These conversations matter. There is still a tremendous misunderstanding about forest and paper industry and its impact on the environment. Most people still believe that print kills trees, and according to a recent Two Sides study, 55% of respondents believe that U.S. forests have decreased in area. This rises to 62% of 18 to 24 year olds. More than 70% of respondents think that less than half of waste paper is recycled. (In reality, it’s 67%.)
Especially among young people, it is critical that print and paper’s environmental story is told. These are our rising generation of marketers and business owners who are making decisions about how to spend their marketing dollars. Studies consistently show that, among Millennials, the environment is a top concern and they are more likely to stay loyal to brands that have a strong environmental story to tell.
Printers need to be prepared to have these conversations when and where they come up. Visit sites like Two Sides NA. Know the data. Be ready to combat misperceptions and tell the story of paper. It’s critical with clients, but it’s critical in these impromptu conversations, too. Who knows whether the guy I talked to today is a lifer at the Verizon store or whether he’s a graduate student who will end up running the marketing department of a major brand company one day. Or what he might share with a friend in a casual conversation, and what influence that comment might have.
If I can start that conversation, so can you.