Computers Don’t Grow on Trees… But Paper Does! - PFL Printing Blog
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  • slider 19 Jun 2012        By: twatkins

When it comes to being ‘Green’, the electronics industry is quick to point the finger. Electronics giant Toshiba recently headed up a “National No-Print Day,” where it swiftly named the print industry as a major enemy of planet earth (placing itself as the obvious solution to paper’s evil ways.) Once again, printed materials find themselves as an easy scapegoat for the world’s environmental problems – as the “anti-tree medium.”

There’s so much wrong with this assumption, it’s hard to convey concisely. First, let’s take a quick look some facts about how the print and paper industries actually affect the earth and its forests each year:

  • Paper production uses trees – it does not destroy forests
  • The Paper industry plants more trees than they harvest every year
  • Despite billions of sheets of paper produced, the US has 12 million more acres of forest land than it did 25 years ago
  • Paper is highly recyclable, creating further economic growth through that industry – and acting as a minimal fraction of US landfill

In comparison, let’s take a quick look at how the electronics industry, and companies like Toshiba impact the earth and its limited resources:

  • Electronics now make up the fastest growing part of the US waste stream
  • More than 130,000 computers are discarded (not recycled) by Americans every single day
  • Electronics sit in landfills for generations, taking up more and more space while leaching lead, mercury, and other toxic metals and chemicals into the soil
  • In opposition to the solar energy that produces paper, electronics use a constant stream of electricity, primarily from fossil fuel, to power them each and every second they are in use

The truth is, we are all striving for the same goal: to become greener – and reduce our impact on the planet and its resources. So, let’s not be so quick to lay the blame Toshiba. While their intentions may have been good, the electronics industry is hardly in a position to point fingers about environmental impact…

Source: National Association of Print Leadership

2 thoughts on “Computers Don’t Grow on Trees… But Paper Does!

  1. This is a great article for many reasons.

    We’re a digital printer. We tell our clients to print only what they need. Their print projects are printed on FSC certified, forest friendly papers and we are 100% wind powered. We use residual heat generated by our equipment to supplement our facility’s heating. We support public transportation and the use of bicycles to commute.

    In addition, our company’s waste is less than 5% of the recycled material we generate. Without recycling paper – there would be no recycled paper to print on!

    Now, for the microelectronics industry. You mentioned the use of mercury in their products. Well, that’s not the worst of it. I’ve spent over 12 years designing microelectronic campuses globally and I am very familiar with these sites and their processes. The last thing on their mind is the environment (although it has improved a bit over the last ten years). From the highly toxic and deadly chemicals and materials used in production to a corporate mentality of “least cost first”, few, if any, companies in the electronic industry can call themselves green.

    Paper bashing is convenient, but demonstrates that sustainability is an issue of “out of sight, out of mind”. Recently, I saw a statement that by 2020, cloud computing will consume the equivalent electrical usage of France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined (Green Peace). What’s worse, the fuel required to generate that power is dumping billion of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and depleting nonrenewable resources.

    I’d like to tell Mr. Toshiba that with an attitude like his, he’s not part of the solution, but the root of the problem. Companies that think deflecting the blame is a great marketing message should think again.

    Until we, as a global community, start to take responsibility for our actions things won’t get any better. Instead of a no print day, it should be a global “think first” day.

    Personally, I’m planning to take the “No Toshiba Day” off and work at the local community garden.

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and then Replace your Toshiba with a Mac!


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