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Posted by Michele McCreath on January 21, 2013


“I think that I shall never see
                           A poem lovely as a tree.”
- Joyce Kilmer

In today’s environmentally conscious world where communication professionals are making decisions for themselves and their clients on how to reduce their carbon footprint - it is more important than ever to base decisions on facts and not the popular rhetoric of the day.

We all know the value of print.  It drives business to stores, to your website, showcases your products and drives sales.  But in a world where we are bombarded with electronic devices and media, the question is – “with all of the misconceptions out there, how can you help your company and clients make communication decisions that contribute to the environment?”

The following statistics delves into the misconceptions that if companies stop using print they will save trees and the impact this decision can have on the environment. So, the next time someone ask “if they are sacrificing a tree when they print?” you can give them the facts – “that using paper is as lovely as planting a tree”.


Have you heard someone suggest that by using less paper you can “save a tree”? The fact is that when the demand for paper declines, tree farming also declines, taking all of the important ecological impacts like clean water and wildlife habitat along with it.  The reality is that decreasing paper use may well cause a forest somewhere to be replaced by development. The future of our forests depends on slowing the conversion of these precious resources by managing sustainably to ensure their economic, social and environmental health benefits generations to come. That means we’ve got to provide not only the financial incentive but also the education and tools for responsible forest management. 

There are strong penalties for knowingly sourcing illegal timber. Fact - One of the most important advancements in the fight against illegal logging in the world’s forests is the LACEY ACT passed by Congress in 2008.  With this act the U.S. became the first country to ban the import, sale or trade of illegally harvested wood and wood products.


  • By keeping trees from being cut down we are actually keeping trees from being planted - currently three trees are planted for every tree harvested in the U.S.
  • If current trends continue, we will have lost 23 million forested acres by 2050, the size of Maine - not to logging but to parking lots and highways.
  • Forests are renewable. When managed sustainably, they are harvested and replanted responsibly to create watersheds and sequester carbon.
  • Responsible forests are a very important source of clean air and clean water - 1/3 of drinking water in the U.S. comes from forested land.
  • Climate experts believe that responsible management of forests is one of   the least expensive ways to fight climate change.

Certification - out of concern for the responsible management of the world’s forests, third party certification groups have emerged to help ensure that forests are responsibly managed. Today, virgin fiber (pulp) is produced in accordance with a variety of these certifications.

Printers and mills enlist the services of a third party auditing organization like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and PEFC to have their practices around the purchase and/or sale of wood fiber reviewed against criteria established for certification. Once it is established that a company’s practices do not contribute to the use or destruction of old growth or rainforest timber, loss of habitat, or the displacement of indigenous people - they will certify a company (Vision Graphics is proud to be certified).

               IT’S “CAN WE SAVE A FOREST?”

Saving trees requires thinking about them in the context of woodlands and forests. Like the tree farmers, forest product companies exist because of the perpetual growing, harvesting and replanting of trees. Their financial future requires continual renewal of the forest. With no economic incentive, tree farmers are finding it more profitable to sell their land to developers.

  • 80 percent of all rain that falls east of the Mississippi River falls on family-owned  forests where it is purified, stored and released into aquifers.
  • 70 percent of U.S. forests are family owned, and as owners age, this land is being   divided, sold and transferred for urban development.
  • 600 million trees are planted every year by the paper and forest products  industry.
  • 60 percent of the energy used to make paper in the U.S.  comes from carbon-neutral renewable resources.


“Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.”  This seemingly well-intentioned plea suggest that digital communication is greener than paper. But is it? If  the goal is to save trees or the environment, the choice to go paperless is not as green or as simple as some would like us to believe.

While electronic statements may save companies money and reduce the workforce, the energy used to digitally post, host, archive, view and transfer these cumulative billions of electronic statements is currently more than 90 percent powered by fossil fuels, and specifically coal. Mountain top removal coal mining has, according to the EPA, deforested seven percent of the Appalachian Mountain Range - sending out electronic statements does NOT save a tree!

As much as we love our electronic devices, they don’t grow on trees or anywhere else. They are much more complex and expensive to recycle, recover and reuse due to the toxic nature of many of the components.

  • Only 18 percent of electronic waste is recycled in the U.S.
  • The average data center serving our electronic services consumes the same amount of energy as  25,000 households.
  • 40 percent of the lead and 70 percent of all heavy metals found in the landfills are from e-waste.
  • The majority of the U.S. paper industry’s power and electricity needs are derived from renewable biomass that is sourced from sustainably managed forests.
  • Since 1973, the paper industry has reduced the amount of energy needed to produce paper by 42%.   

Source:  International Paper; Greenbiz.


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