Getting Schooled on Print

By Erin Moloney

“I don’t know.  Do I REALLY need to print this e-mail?”

This was my brother’s sole response to a note sent him from my work e-mail at a previous employer.  As the younger sibling, I was well-versed in his sarcasm. He was calling me out.

Unintentional Green-washing

At the time, all employees in my office were encouraged to build Outlook signatures that had a consistent format. Part of that format included a message in the footer that discouraged print.  Their enviro-message had a nice little graphic of a tree, and green font that read “Do you really need to print this e-mail?” 

So I added the footer to my email signature. No big deal.

My brother, on the other hand, saw it as a big deal: a prime opportunity to harass me.

In all fairness, I wasn’t blindly following some idealistic company campaign. However, I did not fully comprehend the fallacy of the propaganda I was unwittingly partaking in. My message wasn’t just misleading. It was wrong. 

Thankfully, along with most forms of naivety is a silver lining of opportunity.

Paper: the Power Resource

Fast forward ten years. I now work in a paper-based industry where we encourage the use of print and paper.  And guess what? Paper is a really powerful resource that is not only renewable and recyclable but is the poster child for sustainability. Responsibly sourced forests, trees and paper serve an important role in sustaining our environment.

Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America is an organization helps promote print and paper as versatile, sustainable mediums. “Greenwashing” or false claims that suggest using less paper somehow saves forests (e.g. “Go Paperless-Save Trees”) or email tags that suggest we should somehow feel enviro-guilt about our usage of paper, are areas where Two Sides works to recalibrate communication and re-educate consumers. Education not only of the sustainability of our paper producing forests, but also the real rationale why companies are using these claims.

The results of a survey commissioned by Toluna Inc. and Two Sides show consumers are listening. According to Phil Riebel, President of Two Sides North America, “Our results suggest that the environmental acceptance for print and paper is improving. For example, 88% of respondents agreed that when forests are responsibly managed it is environmentally acceptable to use trees to produce products such as wood for construction and paper for printing.” In addition, the survey found that “Many respondents (85%) agreed that cost-saving is the main reason why companies use environmental claims such as, 'Go Paperless – Go Green', or 'Go Paperless – Save Trees'. In addition, 57% of respondents reported that they question the validity of such claims.”

You live and you learn. In my case of unintentional green-washing, it was an opportunity to learn perspective through research and reflection.

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