Green Printing

Is Printing The End Of The World?

(Really?)

It's something we all learned in grade school: don't waste paper! Paper comes from trees. When you waste paper, you're single-handedly murdering our forests.
Over the years, this hug-the-planet credo evolved into a full-fledged rallying cry against the print industry for decimating the earth's tree supply and flooding its rivers with chemical waste.

Point taken. Really.

Printers are the first to admit that when our industry burgeoned into existence, people weren't spending a lot of time thinking about renewable vs. non-renewable resources. We weren't worried about emissions or carbon footprints, Peak Oil or the importance of environmental stewardship. But heck, folks, an industry can LEARN, and more importantly, it can CHANGE. The question is, can an industry change its reputation?

As Richard Romano points out ina great editorial on 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 as cleanly as possible.

And yes, it's never going to be perfect. Printing is never going to be GOOD for the environment, but as Romano says, neither is any media or media technology. Kindles don't grow on trees, and Twitters don't travel from place to place via carrier pigeon.

Everything has a carbon footprint.

The only difference between print and other forms of media is that the printing industry has been called out for negative ecological impact, while the impacts of other forms of media are just beginning to be known. As Romano so eloquently puts it, “we need to disabuse ourselves of the notion that pixels are somehow pure and holy and that paper is the spawn of Satan.”

Fortunately, the result of this disparity has thusfar been positive. Printers have zeroed in on the areas where they need to change, and are working every day to print better, safer, and cleaner. Unfortunately, the flipside is that other media gets to whistle Dixie while printers take all the heat. And right now, this doesn't seem to be changing, even though the industry itself has, and is.

So will print ever be able to break the bad-for-the-environment stigma? Not because it's as eco-friendly as composting, but because it has a perceivable value equal to the its environmental impact?

Ultimately, the question comes down to one of whether or not the world would truly be a nicer place without ink and paper. Our grade schools taught us not to waste, but I don't remember Mrs. Bukowski ever saying we shouldn't use paper at all. If we evolved into a paperless society, what would take its place? And once we had gotten rid of all that nasty ink and paper, would people, and the planet, really be better, cleaner, healthier? (really?)


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