What? Is that headline right? Use more paper?
Every communication has an impact on the environment. Whether we decide to communicate via an email or a letter, we consume energy and resources. Environmental stewardship requires us to look at the entire life cycle of those resources – from raw materials to energy use.
A study by International Paper found that paper-based communications result in higher levels of sustainability by several key environmental measures over those of electronic communications. Highlights and statistical comparisons from the study are discussed below.
Paper: Paper’s primary raw materials – trees and, in the legal community, cotton – are renewable resources. A renewable resource is defined as any natural resource that can be replenished naturally with the passage of time. The paper industry replenishes more than it takes and ensures the sustainability of our forests by planting 1.7 million trees every single day, more than three times what is harvested.
Electronic: The primary raw materials used to make computers and various electronic devices typically require the mining of dozens of minerals and metals as well as the use of plastics and hydrocarbon solvents. These materials – gold, silver, palladium, plastics, etc. – are not considered renewable resources since they cannot be simply planted and re-grown over time.
Paper: 60% of the energy required to produce paper in the U.S. comes from carbon neutral renewable resources. In addition, paper manufacturers use combined heat and power generation systems, which are up to 90% efficient. Fossil fuel use and purchased energy in this industry is steadily decreasing.
Electronic: 90% of the energy required to run the servers that power the Internet is from fossil fuels which are greenhouse gas emitting. Plus, the power generation systems used are only 45-60% efficient. And the consumption rate for these data centers is only growing.
Paper: Paper is a biodegradable substance that is also recyclable and reusable. Nearly 60% of all paper produced in the U.S. is recycled and more than 63% of the fiber used to make new paper products in the U.S. comes from recycled sources.
Electronic: Only 18% of electronic devices are currently recycled, and only a small percentage of those are actually being reused to manufacture other products. Electronics have become the fastest growing waste stream in the world and now constitutes our single largest toxic waste export.
Some other interesting facts from International Paper:
- 20% less CO2 is used per year by a person reading a daily printed newspaper than by a person reading web-based news for 30 minutes a day.
- On average it takes 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity to produce 440 pounds of paper, the typical amount of paper each individual uses in a year. That’s the equivalent of powering one computer continuously for five months.
- It costs an estimated $2.8 billion of energy to leave computers sitting idly overnight in the U.S. On a CO2 basis, that’s an amount equivalent to four million cars on the road.
- The paper and forest products industry has been addressing sustainability for decades, and now adheres to many third-party certification standards and government regulations.
The Right Questions
While many believe that electronic communications are more environmentally friendly than paper, you must create a balance between the two to maintain effective communications with clients, while also keeping the environment in mind. We hope this list of statistics helps you find that balance.
Electronic and printed communications can and should be used in conjunction with each other. Using paper-based communications can actually be the more environmentally friendly option – especially when you “think green” when choosing the types of paper to use.
Your ASL account manager is available to inform you about your environmentally friendly paper and production process choices. Call us today at 800.222.0510.