Is Printing Destroying The Planet?
We all learned the lesson as kids. Don't waste paper. You're playing a part in the mass extermination of trees.This has long been taken as a rallying cry against the printing industry for wreaking havoc on the world's tree supply and for releasing untold chemicals into the water supply.
Printers are the first to admit that when the industry burst into existence, people weren't giving renewable resources a great deal of thought. Even as a child, I remember roadsides being used as perpetual trash bins, though the situation is far less acute in most places today, Because, en masse, people today are more sensitive to the issue of environmental degradation, and printers are too.
Printing companies today are by and large responsible stewards, but the question remains, can an industry such as printing change it's reputation? As Richard Romano pointed out in an editorial in PRINTCEO, the print industry is working its collective butt off to develop technologies, best practices and strategies which make sure that resources are used as carefully and cleanly as possible.
Printing is never going to be described as antiseptic, but neither is any media or technology. Kindles don't emerge from pumpkin patches and Twitters don't land in one from out of the sky.
Everything that's manufactured has a carbon footprint of some sort.
The sole difference between the printing industry and other media is that the printing industry has been called out on it's negative environmental impact, while the impact of assorted other media forms is just beginning to be known. As Romano put it, "we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that pixels are somehow pure and holy and that paper is the spawn of satan."
But in a sense, this disparity has been a positive one for the printing industry. Printers have been intensely focused on improving the aspects of their business that they need to get better at, while assorted other media stick their heads in the sand and allow printing companies to take all the heat. This disparity doesn't show any signs of weakening, even though printers have stiffened their resolve.
But will printing ever be able to escape the stigma of being harmful to the environment?
It seems that as long as there are perpetual busy bodies and fret mongers, there will be hostility to anything which comes from nature. But perhaps there's some wisdom to be gleaned from the childhood teacher admonishments to not WASTE paper rather than not to use it at all. After all, nobody with any sense in their head actually cleans their plate with the idea that children are starving in China.