Seeking Common Ground in Wake of Harsh Response to Toshiba No Print Day
By: Sophie Glass, Green America
What a month. When Toshiba launched their No Print Day campaign, they didn’t expect the extent of resistance that flared up. As a result, Toshiba pulled the plug on No Print Day and now that the dust is beginning to settle, we can step back and look beyond the tweets and posts in order to find common ground.
To begin, it’s important to look at what Toshiba was for rather than what it was against when the company came up with their campaign. The were no official conservation partners to the ad campaign, but raising awareness and offering solutions to paper waste in office workplaces across the country of No Print Day were in line with the Environmental Paper Network’s vision of increasing paper use efficiency. We can all agree that efficiency is good and waste is bad. Unnecessary paper consumption hurts a company’s bottom line. Even printers – whose bread and butter is the printed word - try to eliminate paper waste when trimming and warming up their machines.
Ridding ourselves of excessive paper use is also a win for forests and the climate. Producing virgin-fiber paper relies on trees that do the hard job of absorbing global warming pollution. Wastefulness leads to overconsumption and pressure to expand harvesting into Endangered Forests and excessive waste in our landfills. In addition, paper production consumes massive amounts of fresh water and requires many harsh chemicals.
So is the solution an indefinite moratorium on printing? Absolutely not. We all rely on paper, whether it’s to write a sticky note to remind ourselves to bring lunch to work or to give our kids a coloring book to play with.
The solution lies in asking: “What’s in your paper?” If your paper has recycled content in it, you can reap the benefits of paper while still protecting our planet. Producing 100% recycled copy paper can reduce pressure on forests while decreasing wastewater by 53%, energy by 31% and solid waste by 39%. Right now paper products are the largest component of landfills. Let’s use this “waste” and turn it into raw materials for a sustainable industry – recycled paper manufacturing.
We can also all agree that innovation is a positive thing. We have been primarily using trees to make paper since the days of covered wagons – years before climate change was an imminent threat. Now that we know how important trees are for our future, we need to prioritize making paper from alternative fibers. The first mills made paper made out of cotton, linen, and hemp, but the 21st century challenge is to bring alternative fiber paper to scale. Many will be watching the policy implementation and life-cycle studies from the recent announcement by Kimberly-Clark to reduce wood use for its products by 50% through research and development of fibers such as bamboo and wheat straw.
We need to think creatively and source virgin fiber from leftover agricultural waste, textile byproducts and low-impact crops in order to stay competitive in the global marketplace. North America is losing the race with China and India, where 20% of paper produced in those countries are made from residue from crops like wheat, rice straw and sugar cane bagasse. Let’s come together and innovate for the sake of our economy and environment.
Lastly, we can all agree that we need more jobs. For every 1,000 tons of paper that are recycled rather than sent to a landfill between 1 and 2 jobs are created for paper collection, 2 jobs are created for paper processing and 4 jobs are created for recycled paper manufacturing.  This far outpaces the number of jobs required to haul and dump paper in a landfill.
So in the wake of No Print Day commotion, let’s come back together as paper, publishing and print communities and agree we need to make every day Smarter Printing Day and that we need to have fact based conversations that includes marketplace support for the most responsible paper suppliers. Smarter printing means reducing and making better use of waste, innovating new green technologies and generating jobs – things we can certainly all agree on.
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Sophie Glass is with Green America's Better Paper Project.
The Paper Planet is a forum for diverse views and the opinions expressed are those of the contributor of the article, and not necessarily the view of all member organizations or of the Environmental Paper Network.