Dispelling the myths of print media.
As our love affair with the Internet continues, print media is often maligned as ‘dead tree’ media, dogged by an image as old fashioned, environmentally unsound, and ineffective. But are these impressions accurate, or is print media a victim of bad press?
The truth is, between consumer awareness and pressure groups, Corporate Social responsibility programs and ever increasing legislation to safeguard the environment, paper manufacturers, particularly those with well-known brands, simply can’t afford to be anything less than squeaky clean. Sustainability, environmentally friendly, low carbon; they’re all watchwords at the forefront of any marketing campaign, along with transparency. All of which means manufacturing and printing processes are subject to a number of assessments and safeguards that make today’s paper and print media as environmentally efficient as possible.
The image of paper as a dead tree resource persists, with many people citing environmental concerns as one reason to switch to an electronic filing system. However, the reality doesn’t bear up under close examination.
For one thing, paper production doesn’t deplete forests. On the contrary, the need for timber for paper and other products ensures their survival. If we didn’t need the trees for wood and paper, the destructive shrinking of forests may have continued to make way for other uses, such as housing and arable farming.
Britain’s forests were reduced to less than 5 percent by the end of WW1, prompting the formation of the Forestry Commission. While it may have been criticized early on for over reliance on conifers, today’s managed forests represent a much wider biodiversity that supports wildlife, research and recreational activity on a much wider scale. Forests across Europe have increased 30 percent since 1950.
Thanks largely to certification schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) it’s easy today to ensure paper is made using sustainably sourced raw materials. By removing fossil fuels from the production process, paper manufacturing has become much more efficient. In fact, these days, the energy it takes to make thee paper each person uses in a year (500 Kilowatt hours and 200Kg of paper) would power your computer continuously for just five months.
Vegetable based inks, recycled cleaning solvents and printer components all ensure the printing process is as clean as possible. Many printers also subscribe to carbon offsetting programs, in which any remaining carbon footprint that can’t be removed from the process is mitigated by investment in environmental improvement programs.
Of course, one of the things paper has in its favour is its eminent recyclability. It is one of the few products that can be 100 percent recycled. It’s the most commonly recycled product, far ahead of plastic or glass, with 72.2 percent of paper produced being recycled throughout Europe in 2010. With public concern for the environment ensuring consumer co-operation and government run schemes making collection and distribution of recyclable materials easier, that figure looks set to continue increasing.
While print media is cleaning up its act and brushing up its image, people are also beginning to question the idea that electronic media are inherently more energy efficient, too. After all, digital media rely heavily on electricity. As more and more people switch to smartphones, and are connected to the Internet round the clock, sometimes via multiple devices, the environmental impact of digital media is also coming into question. One report from the Swedish Royal Institute for Technology has even suggested that reading a newspaper could consume 20% less carbon than accessing the same news online.
Energy & Environment