"Please Consider the Environment Before Printing This Message"

How many times do you see the statement at the bottom of someone's email "Please consider the environment before printing this message?" I am baffled by this. I don't know anyone that doesn't want to work in a way that reduces their impact on the environment, but how does sending an email cautioning the recipient on printing out their email equate to reducing your environmental impact?

I'm tired of paper getting a bad rap (ok, so maybe I'm a little biased) but I think there's a lot of misinformation going around. For starters, paper is renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. Yes, paper is made from trees - but that's not necessarily bad. For decades paper manufacturers in North America have replaced trees they've harvested - according to the USDA Forest Service, 4 million trees are planted daily in the US.

In addition, paper is one of the most recycled products in this country, in 2008 57% of all paper consumed in the US was recovered for recycling. That's a good thing, because in addition to preserving trees, a sheet that is made with 30%PCW for example requires 10% less energy to manufacture and uses 25% less water and emits 6% less greenhouse gases than virgin paper.

Here are some facts to help put into perspective paper's impact on the environment vs. alternative methods of communication, compliments of the latest edition of Ed by NewPage, which you can request from our online sample studio.

Communication Lifecycles:
E-Mail - 5 seconds
Shopping List - 2 hours
Periodicals - 6 months
Cell phone - 18 months
Computer - 5 years
Web Site - 5 years
PDFs - 16 years
Book in the NYC Library - 23 years
Love Letter - 64 years
Guttenberg Bible - 555 years (and counting)


  1. I do appreciate paper being a renewable resource, and I understand your point of view. One thing I try to remember about any wood products, and the numbers published via US Forest Service - the forests we are planting are monospecies, which do no not provide a habitat. They are being planted like corn instead of providing another forest habitat. It's not so much the wood I am woncerned with per se, it's the loss of land to our consumption.

  2. The loss of our land to "consumption" isn't because of managed forestry (paper, wood). Our forests are lost to development and agriculture. I'll challenge the "forests we are planting are monospecies - which do not provide a habitat" statement. That can be a challenge, and I'm not supportive of converting a natural forest to a monoculture plantation, neither is my company, but it's still a very small minority of what's happening in North America. Furthermore, tree plantations do contain biodiversity, and are allowed under certain certification systems (FSC, SFI) if they follow prescribed criteria. This issue is far too complicated to make general statements.

    Paper and 2x4's aren't the enemy, cheesburgers and shopping malls are.

  3. At PRINT 09, Jerry Waite, a professor at the University of Houston, shared his email signature block.

    "The next time you worry about printing an e-mail," says Waite, "consider that paper is made from an easily renewable material while the device you are using to read this isn't. Paper is recyled and recylable. Scap paper is not toxic waste. But the device you are using to read this e-mail will be toxic waste when you are finished with it."