We all get emails from our bank and credit card companies that encourage us to help the environment by going paperless. As business owners we make choices based on what is more environmentally sound. It has been the general understanding that digital media is the environmentally preferable choice and an important step in creating a more ecologically aware and sustainable world. However, it is more accurate to say that digital media consumption shifts negative environmental effects to new places, rather than reducing them. If your goal is to save trees or do something good for the environment, the choice to go paperless is not as green as you might think.
- Paper is one of the most recycled products in the world with a nearly 70% recovery rate, beating out plastics, glass and metals.
- Efforts of the printing and paper industry have been at the forefront of minimizing environmental impact helping prevent deforestation and keeping forests from being sold for development. Nearly half of the 4 million trees planted every day in the US are planted by the paper products industry.
- Paper in the US is made from over 60% biofuels (renewable fuels from a biological source). Paper mills use whatever is left over to generate bioenergy on sites, reducing the carbon footprint of paper and minimizing coal dependency.
- Digital server farms have become the fastest growing users of fossil fuels in the world relying on significant amounts of energy from coal fired power plants.
- The energy, water and raw materials needed to make a single e-reader is equal to that of 40 to 50 books. And, the emissions created by a single e-reader are equal to that of roughly 100 books.
If you think you are saving forests and protecting the environment by going paperless…think again. The real dilemma you face is that you may be doing more harm to the environment by going paperless than you think, and making responsible choices requires informed decisions and rational trade-offs. Most important, remember to recycle!