“Go paperless – save a tree” has become an increasingly common claim amongĀ  companies encouraging customers to receive invoices, marketing materials and other statements digitally as opposed to via mail. Recently, we got word that more than 30 major companies have announced they’ll remove that claim from their marketing materials because reduced paper statements don’t necessarily have a positive impact on the environment.

So when does going paperless matter? And what impact does your print project have on the environment? In a world of endless choices for communication, how do you make the best decision about the medium over which you’re delivering your message? Here are some of the things we consider, along with our clients, for the projects that come through our doors:

  • Communication objectives: The medium should help to get the message right. For a company wanting to make a splash with their quarterly sales kits, a stunning printing project might be a perfect fit. For those trying to meet their customers’ day-to-day needs, perhaps taking some of their marketing or payment communication online is a good way to do it.
  • Choosing the right stock: When deciding to print, our staff helps to select the right printing stock for the job. Post consumer waste percentage is key in this decision-making process. It ensures that the printing project is also environmentally responsible.
  • Not wasting by over-printing: Many people go into print projects assuming they should print extras of everything, but in the end, that’s wasteful (both environmentally and economically) if those extras sit in a warehouse or end up in the recycling bin. Digitally-enabled printing techniques help hone the numbers to avoid waste.
  • Reducing chemicals in the printing process: Paper’s not the only part of printing that has an effect on the environment. Being responsible about the chemicals your printer uses is important. At Ambit, we use an offset printing process that uses no fixer or developer like many printers do, thereby reducing our total environmental impact.
  • Targeting the distribution: Even more important than the message being printed is ensuring that it’s delivered into the right hands. Having a targeted distribution list for printed materials can help reduce waste.

It’s important to note that the decisions made by these top companies to eliminate their “Go Paperless – Save a Tree” language came after a lot of consideration of the facts. In fact, paper goods–when printed and manufactured responsibly–don’t have to have a negative environmental impact. Industry organization Two Sides shared some interesting facts about the paper industry:

  • In the US, we grow more trees than we harvest. In the past 6 decades, US forest area has increased by 3% and the net volume of trees on timberland has increased 58%.
  • In the US, a total of 8.4 million jobs that generate $1.3 trillion in revenue depend on the mailing industry, which includes paper production, printing, related suppliers, handling of mail, etc.
  • The income from the paper industry is a large part of landowners’ incentive to sustain and responsibly harvest their trees.
  • Electronic products also have a carbon footprint–from manufacturing to powering them–that needs to be considered in “go paperless for the environment” claims.

Paperless communication certainly has an important place in our business activities. (You’re reading the online-only blog of a printing company, for example.) But with many angles to consider around printing and digital communication, the best question to ask is how to most efficiently and effectively communicate your message to your target audience.

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