Since its inception, the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign has eliminated literally billions of instances of paper-related greenwashing in the United States and Canada – and engagement with large utilities, banks and insurers in January and February has set the pace for millions more in 2023.
So far this year, seven additional companies representing 40 million customers have removed “go green, go paperless,” “go paperless, protect the environment” and similar claims from their marketing communications.
“In addition to misleading consumers, these types of unsubstantiated environmental claims pose a serious threat to the economic security of the more than 7 million people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy North American paper, printing and mailing sector,” says Two Side North America President Kathi Rowzie. “Our recent research found that 65% of consumers who’ve seen anti-paper greenwashing are influenced to go paperless.”
That same research found that the Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has annually preserved more than $300 million in revenue for the paper, printing and mailing sector over the last decade.
Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims in a non-confrontational way, educating CEOs and other senior management with facts from credible, third-party sources that clearly demonstrate the unique sustainability characteristics of paper products and the solid and continually improving environmental record of the North American paper industry.
“Paper is one of the few products on earth that already has an environmentally sustainable, circular life cycle,” Rowzie says. “North American paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and regrown in sustainably managed forests. It’s manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon neutral bioenergy in a process that uses water, but in reality consumes very little of it. And paper products are recycled more than any other material. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because corporations and other organizations they trust are telling them so. Two Sides is working hard to change that.”
You can help Two Sides in the fight to eliminate anti-paper greenwashing and protect North American jobs. If you see instances of greenwashing, please email them as a PDF, JPG file or link to email@example.com.
Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie and Two Sides Europe Managing Director Jonathan Tame recently talked with German Sacristan, director of on-demand printing and publishing at Keypoint Intelligence, about greenwashing – the use of unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims by corporations and other entities to encourage consumers to stop using paper – and what Two Sides is doing to eliminate it.
Funded entirely through membership dues, Two Sides is the only industry organization that directly challenges major corporations, the media and other types of organizations that promote common environmental myths, such as going paperless “saves trees,” “protects the environment” and “reduces carbon emissions.” Our global anti-greenwashing campaign has resulted in more than 800 companies, government agencies and other organizations changing or eliminating anti-paper environmental claims.
“In North America alone, the companies that have eliminated bogus environmental claims about paper as a result of Two Sides’ anti-greenwashing campaign collectively represent billions of instances of greenwashing and consumers numbering in the hundreds of millions who are no longer seeing anti-paper environmental messages from their service providers,” Rowzie says.
“But Two Sides did not achieve this alone,” she adds. “We’re all in this together, and the continuing support and engagement of our members is critical to helping end greenwashing and to amplifying the great sustainability story of print, paper and paper-based packaging. Two Sides membership is an investment in the future of our industry, and we invite every company whose business depends on paper to join us.”
The recent United Nations global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, brought the world’s leaders together again to try to reach agreement on further commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. High on the agenda was preserving the health of the world’s forests – a critical natural resource for absorbing these emissions.
With this heightened international attention on preventing deforestation, primarily in the developing world, now is a good time to remind ourselves that the North American forests that supply the wood fiber for our paper and packaging products are among the most sustainably managed in the world.
They are so well-managed, in fact, that our forests continue to be a net absorber of carbon. In the United States, sustainable forest management practices, the regeneration of forest area and modern harvesting practices resulted in a net sequestration of carbon every year from 1990 to 2019, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) reports that U.S. forests annually capture and store 14% of economy-wide carbon dioxide emissions. Natural Resources Canada reports that forestlands capture and store around 19% of all carbon dioxide equivalents emitted in the country.
The production of wood and paper products is a powerful economic engine and driving force in keeping North American lands forested. By providing a dependable market for responsibly grown fiber, the paper industry encourages landowners to manage their forestland instead of selling it for development or other non-forest uses. More than half (58%) of the forestland in the U.S. is privately owned and managed, mostly by millions of small landowners, and they are under no obligation to keep their lands forested. Without the economic incentive provided by the forest products industry, untold millions of acres of forestland would likely have been lost permanently to commercial land development – converted to building projects, strip malls or parking lots.
For proof, look no further than countries where there is little economic incentive to keep lands forested. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Global Forest Resources Assessment, those areas of the world that consume the least amount of wood have the greatest problem with the kind of deforestation that the Glasgow conferees were trying to address.
Compare that with North America’s forest products industry. While they were producing the wood and paper products that enrich the lives of consumers, net forest area in the U.S. grew by some 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, according to the UN FAO, and Canada’s forest area of 857 million acres has been stable over the same period. By law, every acre of Canadian forest that is commercially harvested must be regenerated.
In the U.S., the net average annual increase in growing stock on timberland is about 25 billion cubic feet, according to the USFS, and forests in the U.S. annually grow nearly twice as much wood as is harvested. USFS also reports that tree harvesting in the U.S. occurs on less than 2% of forestland per year in contrast to the nearly 3% disturbed annually by natural events like insects, disease, and fire, and most of this harvested wood is used for non-paper purposes. Harvesting in Canada occurs on only 0.2% of forestlands, while 4.7% is disturbed by insects and 0.5% is disturbed by fire, this according to Natural Resources Canada.
The Glasgow summit also kicked off a discussion of the inherent advantages of bio-based materials – like paper and paper-based packaging– in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and their potential role in a more broad-based, circular bio-economy. The FAO released a report demonstrating how renewable wood-based products can help combat climate change and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
According to Dr. E. Ashley Steel, Forest Statistics Expert at the UN FAO:
“There is strong evidence at the product level that wood products are associated with lower GHG emissions over their entire life cycle compared to products made from GHG-intensive and non-renewable materials. Wood and wood-based products are generally associated with lower fossil and process-based emissions when compared to non-wood products.”
The document left open for later study the extent to which paper and paper-based packaging may serve as substitutes for non-wood products in the search for those that contribute to the net reduction of greenhouse gases, but there’s little doubt that any product sourced from materials that are grown and regrown are better for combating climate change than the non-paper alternatives.
North American consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of the products they buy and use, and they want to do the right things. But when it comes to paper products, the right things are often buried under an avalanche of misinformation and outright falsehoods that are made to sound plausible. Environmental advocacy is too often wrapped in a veneer of misleading, science-sounding terminology, or worse, reduced to slogans like “paper equals deforestation” or “billions of trees are cut down every year to make paper packaging.”
Consumers are presented with images of endangered forests in faraway places like the Amazon and Borneo, the implication being that these forests are the source of trees for paper products manufactured in the United States and Canada. The only beneficiaries of these bait-and-switch tactics are anti-paper activists and paper industry competitors, not consumers or the environment.
Most consumers are fair-minded and justifiably concerned about deforestation, so it’s easy to see why many fall for this type of misdirection. A recent Two Sides North America survey showed that 48% of Americans believe paper is bad for the environment, and 60% believe U.S. forests are shrinking. The facts tell a different story. But these misconceptions will continue to proliferate if we don’t actively debunk the myths about paper and the forest.
Every person in the print, paper and paper-based packaging value chain can play an important part in this effort. Sustainable forestry is a comprehensive, science-based approach to protecting and conserving this vital natural resource. But you don’t need to be a scientist or have a special degree to credibly participate in the conversation. All it takes is a basic understanding about the foundations of sustainable forestry and a few facts from credible sources to make the case.
First, let’s lay a little groundwork.
Most people think sustainable forestry simply means planting trees to replace those that are harvested. While that’s certainly a critical element, sustainable forestry is about so much more than that. The U.S. Forest Service defines it as meeting the forest resources needs and values of the present without compromising the similar capability of future generations.
Going far beyond just the physical act of reforestation, sustainable forestry is a land stewardship ethic that integrates the growing, harvesting and regeneration of trees for useful products with the protection and conservation of soil, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and biodiversity, forest contributions to global carbon cycles, aesthetics, and long-term social and economic benefits that meet the needs of society. Achieving these objectives is a tall order, and U.S. and Canadian paper and paper-based packaging companies are instrumental in making it happen. Yes, because it’s the right thing to do, but also because their very existence depends on a thriving and sustainable supply of trees to manufacture the products consumers want and need.
Few enterprises on earth have the benefit of so vast or scientific an infrastructure to promote sustainability and the protection of landscapes and natural values as the North American paper industry. This infrastructure links paper companies; university forestry schools; federal, state and provincial foresters; landowners and loggers; silviculture and soil experts; wildlife biologists; conservation groups; forest certification bodies and others to lead world-class forest stewardship.
Partnerships among these diverse entities drive innovation and real-world sustainability progress grounded in research, the continuing evolution of forestry best management practices, education and training for loggers and landowners, and targeted initiatives to address emerging challenges. In addition, certification organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council and Sustainable Forestry Initiative rigorously audit forestry practices on the ground to independently certify to paper consumers that the products they use come from responsibly managed forests. More than half of the world’s certified forests are in North America (UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2020).
Here are a few key facts to help make the case that paper is not “destroying forests.”
North American forests are a renewable resource and are not shrinking. U.S. forest area grew by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, and net forest area in Canada remained stable at 857 million acres during the same period (U.N Food and Agriculture Organization, 2020).
Tree harvesting in the U.S. occurs on less than 2% of forestland each year compared to the nearly 3% disturbed annually by natural events like insects, disease and fire. (U.S. Forest Service, 2019)
About 89% of wood harvested in the U.S. comes from privately owned forests (U.S. Forest Service, 2019) which provide most of the wood for domestically produced wood and paper products. Demand for sustainably produced paper products provides a strong financial incentive for landowners to manage their land responsibly and keep it forested rather than selling or converting it for non-forest uses, which is the leading cause of deforestation in the United States. (U.S. Forest Service, 2019).
Thanks to innovations in sustainable forest management techniques, today’s private forest owners in the U.S. are growing 59% to 98% more wood (depending on geographic region) than they remove from their timberlands. (Forest2Market, 2021)
Over 90% of Canada’s forestland is publicly owned and managed by provincial, territorial and federal governments. Canada’s forest laws are among the strictest in the world, protecting forests and ensuring that sustainable forest management practices are followed across the country. (Natural Resources Canada, 2021)
Harvesting occurs on 0.2% of Canada’s forestlands annually, while 4.7% is disturbed by insects and 0.5% is disturbed by fire. (Natural Resources Canada, 2020)
For more facts about the sustainability of the North American paper industry and its products, visit www.twosidesna.org/two-sides-fact-sheet.
CHICAGO – May 25, 2021 – Print media has seen significant disruption during the coronavirus pandemic, with lockdowns changing the way we access and consume news and information. But even as familiarity with and use of online media has increased, print on paper remains a widely used and highly valued resource. This according to a new survey, “Paper’s Place in a Post-Pandemic World,” commissioned by non-profit organization Two Sides North America and conducted by global research firm Toluna.
“Print and digital communications are often compared as an either/or proposition to suggest one is better than the other,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie, “but our research shows that both play an important part in today’s information-driven economy. Rather than adopt a one-size-fits all digital communications strategy, savvy news organizations and other businesses will continue to offer consumers a choice and in doing so, help to assure that those who are unwilling or unable to access digital information are not disadvantaged.”
As a result of pandemic-related lockdowns, traditional news brands have successfully developed or enhanced their digital platforms, leading many to turn to online media as a primary source of news and information. But it cannot be assumed that everyone who moved online for news did so by choice or that all who moved online will remain there as restrictions on work, travel and leisure are lifted. While the Two Sides survey showed that 58% of consumers intend to read more news online in the future, this percentage has not changed since 2019. And although print newspaper readership has taken a hit during the pandemic, 49% of consumers say they would be concerned if printed news were to disappear.
It’s important to note that for many Americans, printed communication is not a choice – it’s a necessity. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission estimates that some 21 million Americans do not have access to broadband internet service,1 but other organizations, including Microsoft,2 report estimates as high as 157 million. In addition, many who have access to internet service cannot afford it. Consumers in rural areas without broadband infrastructure and many among our most vulnerable populations – older Americans, those with disabilities and low-income individuals – depend solely on printed newspapers, magazines, books, bills and statements.
In addition, digital communication is not universally welcomed. Nearly three in 10 consumers (29%) prefer to read newspapers in print, and that number jumps to more than four in 10 for those over age 55. 44% of consumers say they gain a better understanding of a story when reading news in print versus online. When it comes to magazines, 38% of consumers prefer to read in print, with percentages climbing to 49% for those over 55 and 63% for those over 65. When all age groups are included, 44% prefer to read books in print.
As might be expected, the survey shows that younger adults, those aged 18 to 24 in particular, prefer to read all types of media online. But even among these younger consumers, 28% prefer to receive and read personal information from doctors and hospitals in print, 27% prefer to read books in print and 23% prefer to receive bills and statements from service providers in print.
“It’s clear that digital communication is changing the way we receive news and information,” Rowzie says, “but Americans’ growing dependence on digital communication brings its own concerns, which in turn presents opportunities for print media to hold and potentially reclaim a bigger slice of the consumer media pie. Our survey reveals that 52% of consumers believe they spend too much time on their electronic devices, and just over half are concerned that the overuse of digital devices may be damaging their health. And as headlines about online security breaches become a common occurrence, 64% say they are increasingly concerned that their personal information held electronically is at risk of being hacked, stolen, lost or damaged.”
Consumers also are increasingly concerned about the environmental impacts of their communication choices, but there are a lot of misconceptions in the marketplace about the sustainability of both digital communication and print on paper. “Our survey shows that 67% of consumers believe electronic communication is better for the environment that print on paper,” Rowzie says. “But the miniaturization of today’s electronic devices and the ‘invisible’ nature of digital infrastructure and cloud-based services cause many to vastly underestimate the environmental footprint of electronic communication, which includes the mining of raw materials like iron, copper and rare earth minerals to produce electronic devices, the massive amounts of predominately fossil fuel energy used to manufacture and operate those devices and the server farms that support them, and the enormous and growing amount of e-waste generated.
“Like all manufactured products, paper has an environmental footprint, too,” Rowzie explains. “But in the U.S., it is a material whose industry grows and regrows its own raw material (wood fiber from trees), derives two-thirds of the power to drive its processes from renewable, carbon-neutral biofuel, cleans and returns more than 90% of the water it uses to the environment and recycles more than 95% of the chemicals it uses to turn trees into pulp. In addition, with a 66% recovery rate, paper is the most recycled material in the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s a powerful sustainability story the electronics industry cannot match.”
For more facts about the environmental sustainability of print and paper products, visit https://twosidesna.org/two-sides-fact-sheet
About Two Sides North America, Inc.
Two Side North America is an independent, non-profit organization that promotes the sustainability of print, paper and paper-based packaging, and dispels common environmental misconceptions about paper products. We are part of the Two Sides global network which operates across North America, South America, Europe, Australia and South Africa.
Kathi Rowzie, President
Two Sides North America, Inc.
Headquartered in Cohoes, New York, Mohawk is North America’s largest privately-owned manufacturer of fine papers and envelopes which are used for commercial and digital printing, social stationery, high-end direct mail and packaging. With a culture of innovation reaching back to its beginning in 1931, Mohawk is committed to providing materials that help make every printed project more beautiful, effective and memorable. A family-owned business since its inception, Mohawk serves the creative needs of designers, brand-owners and printers in more than 60 countries around the globe.
A leader in environmentally and socially responsible paper making since the 1980s, Mohawk sources pulp responsibly, conserves the water its craft relies on and harnesses wind power for its mills. Many of Mohawk’s recycled and virgin papers are certified by Green Seal and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Mohawk was the first U.S. manufacturer of commercial printing papers to match 100% of its electricity with wind power renewable energy credits (RECs) and the first U.S. premium paper mill to shift toward carbon neutral production.
“Mohawk’s commitment to sustainability is rooted in a decades-long commitment to leading the industry with innovation and substance,” says Mohawk Chief Revenue Officer Melissa Stevens. “Our relationship with Two Sides has always been a critical resource in this effort. Working together with Two Sides helps us reach creatives and printers with fact-based information about the impact of paper and printing.”
Every paper manufactured by Mohawk carries the “Mohawk wind power” designation. This means all of the electricity used in Mohawk’s manufacturing operations is matched with renewable RECs from green-e certified wind power projects. Today, Mohawk purchases enough RECs from renewable energy market leaders to match all of the electricity used in its operations. In addition, Mohawk offers a number of products that are made carbon neutral within its production processes. The thermal energy used to manufacture these products is offset through the company’s purchase of carbon credits that fund renewable energy or emission‐reduction projects. Through this process, Mohawk is seeking to manufacture these papers with a net zero climate impact.
In 2020, Mohawk introduced Renewal, a portfolio of papers made with hemp, straw and cotton textile waste. The company’s world-class engineers devised a process that allows its manufacturing operations to alternate between renewable wood-based fiber and alternative fibers on the same equipment to create the beautiful, high-performance sheets Mohawk is known for. The fibers Mohawk has chosen for this line of products are all annual crops which regenerate in a year or less. By using scraps that would’ve otherwise been disposed of, the company is reducing waste and pollution while creating something beautiful.
Mohawk also is an active participant in the local community. In the early days of the pandemic, this included reaching out to the medical community with an innovative solution for the projected shortage of hospital beds in New York and throughout the country. When employees started brainstorming about ways to help the local community during the COVID-19 crisis, they set their sights on a niche product usually sold as a way to construct lightweight, sturdy exhibits at trade shows. The product, called Xanita Board, is manufactured by a startup in Capetown, South Africa and distributed by Mohawk in North America. Xanita Board is an engineered fiberboard manufactured using fiber recovered from recycled cardboard boxes. Its special construction makes it strong enough to bear weight. It can be cut to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, so no tools are required to build three-dimensional, weight-bearing structures. The material is also remarkably lightweight and easy to ship.
Mohawk’s executive team reached out to engineers in South Africa to ask them if they thought Xanita Board could be used to easily construct hospital rooms. The team in Cape Town moved quickly. Less than 24 hours later, they sent a complete set of digital “cut files,” which detail how to construct room dividers and patient beds for use in pop-up hospitals to help with patient overflow.
Xanita Board is sold in flat sheets that must then be specially cut. But since time was of the essence, Mohawk partnered with DataFlow, a custom printing and signage company in Binghamton, New York, to do the cutting of this complete field hospital room solution in advance. All the Xanita Board was kept on hand at Mohawk, ready to be converted at a moment’s notice into walls, beds, and other useful structures. When needed, it is shipped with easy-to-understand instructions so it can be built on-site in minutes, requiring no tools and simple nuts and bolts shipped with each kit. Because the boards are made from recycled cardboard, once the need for the temporary structures is complete, the units can be stored for re-use or turned back into pulp for paper. Click here to learn more about this innovative solution.
For more information about Mohawk, please visit www.mohawkconnects.com.
For more information about becoming a Two Sides member, please click here.
Since 2010, the Two Sides campaign has successfully influenced the change or removal of misleading environmental claims by more than 700 organizations globally and more than 130 in North America, including many of the world’s largest corporations.
CHICAGO – February 2, 2021 – With huge pressures on the economy, banks, telecom providers, utility companies and even governmental organizations are increasingly focused on switching their customers from paper to digital services to cut costs. All too often their customer communications attempt to mask these cost-saving efforts, justifying the switch with unfounded environmental marketing appeals such as “Go Green – Go Paperless” and “Choose e-billing and help save a tree.”
“Not only are these greenwash claims in breach of established environmental marketing rules, but they are hugely damaging to an industry which has a solid and continually improving environmental record,” says Two Sides North America (TSNA) President Phil Riebel. “Far from ‘saving trees,’ a healthy market for forest products such as paper encourages the long-term growth of forests through sustainable forest management. Many of the organizations we engage are surprised to learn that over the last 30 years, U.S. forests have grown by some 18 million acres while net forest area in Canada has remained about the same.”
Globally in 2020, Two Sides engaged 320 organizations making misleading statements about paper. So far, 134 of them have removed such statements from their communications and Two Sides continues to engage the remaining organizations. The organizations were throughout North and South America, Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. This brings the total to 710 companies that have removed misleading greenwashing statements since the campaign began in 2010.
In early 2020, the board of directors of TSNA made the difficult decision to suspend the Anti-greenwash Campaign in the United States and Canada in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges posed by lockdowns across both countries. While no additional organizations were engaged from March through October, TSNA continued its efforts with organizations previously contacted, resulting in a number of additional wins and an overall success rate of 65% since the beginning of the campaign, which resumed in November.
“Greenwashing is a serious issue for our industry, and we have seen a worrying increase driven by current economic pressures” Riebel says. “Because of the huge reach of some of these greenwashing organizations, their unsubstantiated claims have a damaging effect on consumer perceptions of paper and threaten a sector which employs 7.6 million people across the United States and Canada. This is why the Anti-greenwash Campaign continues to be a priority for Two Sides. We will continue to urge companies to reject the use of unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims about going paperless in all of their communications.
“We are grateful for the cooperation of the hundreds of organizations that have changed or eliminated greenwashing claims from their messaging, and we are also thankful for the many industry stakeholders and members of the public who send Two Sides examples of greenwash,” Riebel concludes.
For more information about the anti-greenwash campaign or to learn more about Two Sides, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
About Two Sides
Two Sides is a not-for-profit, global initiative promoting the unique sustainable and attractive attributes of print, paper and paper packaging. Two Sides’ members span the entire print, paper and paper packaging value chain including: forestry, pulp, paper, packaging, inks and chemicals, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and postal operators.
The Canadian Paper and Paper-based Packaging industry is among the most sustainable industries in the world, but there are still significant gaps between public perceptions and actual fact when it comes to related environmental topics such as forestry, greenhouse gas emissions and recycling. For example, a recent Two Sides survey found that Canadian consumers rank pulp and paper products as a leading cause of deforestation – which they are not.
In Two Sides’ just-released fact sheet on the sustainability of the Canadian Paper and Paper-based Packaging industry, you’ll find a host of facts from credible third-party sources that set the record straight.
Two Sides members are permitted to co-brand the fact sheet with their own company logos. For more information on co-branding, please contact email@example.com.
Download the fact sheet here.
Headquartered in Coquitlam, BC, West World Paper (WWP) is a merchant that services the commercial print market in Western Canada. The company offers a wide range of fine paper products, office papers, envelopes, wide format media, janitorial and industrial products. In addition, WWP has an internal converting department that produces engineering/CAD rolls, films, kraft paper and newsprint rolls. From its 30,000-square-foot headquarters and another 12,000-square-foot facility in Calgary, AB, the company manages more than 2,000 products and operates its own fleet of trucks, making distribution to customers in the region fast and efficient.
West World Paper has built a strong reputation not only for providing high quality products, but also for its commitment to environmental sustainability and social responsibility. The company assures that the pulp in all products it buys is sourced from sustainably managed forests. They have an extensive internal recycling program as well as a recycling program for customers. And they are big supporters of other local businesses and charities. WWP Director Shawn Leach says Two Sides membership is a perfect complement to the company’s sustainability efforts.
“Two Sides is a tremendous advocate for our industry, and West World Paper is proud to be a member,” Leach says. “There are so many misconceptions about our industry and our products, and Two Sides effectively busts those myths by highlighting the many studies and facts from trusted third-party sources in an easy to understand format. And being a non-profit organization only adds to the credibility of their messaging and materials, which West World Paper uses regularly to help educate our customers and consumers,” he says.
West World Paper’s extensive internal recycling program recovers all paper, corrugated, wood and plastic used in its facilities, which is then sent to a local recycling company. The wide format paper rolls that WWP converts for the reprographic industry include paper cores and plastic caps. When the company delivers new rolls to a customer, they pick up the cores and caps from the empty rolls and reuse them in the converting process, preventing them from going to the landfill.
“In addition to our environmental commitment, we’re also big supporters of our local economy,” WWP Director Kevin Burden explains. “We make every decision with our local community top of mind. We use a local bank, local legal and accounting services, local graphic designers and of course, local printers. We want people to understand that when they support West World Paper, they are supporting our local community.”
WWP also supports the local community with its charitable contributions. One of the company’s key efforts is its participation in the Starfish Backpack Program, an effort supported by local Rotary Clubs across British Columbia which provides weekend meals to families in need. Many weeks throughout the year, WWP employees fill backpacks with meals and snacks and deliver them to a local school for students to take home for the weekend. The students return the empty backpacks to the school, and the volunteers pick them up to be refilled.
“We have a highly experienced, dedicated team that takes a great deal of pride in going above and beyond for our customers and our community,” Burden says. Giving back is just one of the many ways they help transform West World Paper’s sustainability commitment into action.”
For more information about West World Paper, visit www.westworldpaper.com.
Many banks, utilities, telecoms and other service providers continue to encourage (and sometimes force) their customers to switch from paper to electronic communications, using claims that electronic communication is “greener,” “saves trees” or “protects the planet” as justification. One can only conclude that the CEOs of these companies are either 1) misinformed about the inherent sustainability of print and paper, the rapidly expanding environmental footprint of digital communication or both, 2) trusting marketing teams who don’t bother to validate environmental claims or 3) seeking to save costs by ignoring established environmental marketing rules from the U.S. FTC and Canadian Standards Association that say marketers “should not make broad, unqualified environmental benefit claims like “green” and that “claims should be clear, prominent and specific.”
Growth of electronic devices and e-waste
There’s no arguing that the use of electronic devices has exploded over the last decade. According to a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Americans (81%) now own smartphones, up from just 35% in 2011. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults now own desktop or laptop computers, and roughly half now own tablets and e-readers. This boom has resulted in many advances that make our lives more efficient, productive and enjoyable. But it has also brought with it serious and increasing environmental, health and economic consequences.
According to the recently released Global E-waste Monitor (GEM) 2020, a record 53.6 million metric tons (Mt) of electronic waste was generated in 2019, up 21% in just five years. For perspective, last year’s e-waste weighed as much as 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2, enough to form a line 76 miles long. The GEM describes e-waste as discarded products with a battery or plug. Small electronic equipment, screens and monitors, small IT and telecommunication equipment comprised more than half of global e-waste last year. The U.S. and Canada collectively generated 7.7 Mt of electronic waste in 2019. That’s 46 lbs. per person, and nearly three times the worldwide per capita generation of 16 lbs.
The report also predicts global e-waste, will reach 74 Mt by 2030, almost a doubling of e-waste in just 16 years. This makes e-waste the world’s fastest-growing waste stream, fueled by higher consumption rates of electric and electronic devices, short device life cycles and few options for repair. Many people now see devices and appliances as ultimately disposable, simply discarding them when it’s time for an upgrade. Others may hold on to them, but are unable to find a cost-effective way to repair them.
Little e-waste is recycled
The GEM found that only 17.4% of e-waste was collected and recycled globally in 2019, with only 15% of e-waste in North America recycled. Most e-waste was either dumped or burned rather than being collected for recycling and reuse.
Numerous toxic and hazardous substances are found in electronic equipment and pose severe risk to the environment and human health when not handled in an environmentally sound manner. Recent research cited in the GEM found that unregulated e-waste is associated with increasing numbers of adverse health effects, from birth defects and altered neurodevelopment to DNA damage, adverse cardiovascular and respiratory effects and cancer.
E-waste also represents a huge economic loss. When electronic devices are simply thrown away, high-value, recoverable materials such as iron, copper and gold are thrown away with them. “If we cannot recycle electronic waste, we’re not taking back materials into the loop, which means we have to extract new raw materials,” says Vanessa Forti, the lead author of the GEM. It’s estimated that the value of raw materials in all global e-waste generated in 2019 equaled a staggering $57 billion US, more than the gross domestic product of most countries.
Electronic communication, energy consumption and climate change
The miniaturization of equipment and the “invisibility” of the infrastructures used leads many to underestimate the environmental footprint of digital technology. This phenomenon is reinforced by the widespread availability of services on the “cloud,” which makes the physical reality of use all the more imperceptible and leads to underestimating the direct environmental impacts of digital technology.
By 2023, global tech giant Cisco estimates that North America will have 345 million internet users (up from 328 million in 2018), and 5 billion networked devices/connections (up from 3 billion in 2018). The U.S. Department of Energy reports that U.S. data centers consumed an estimated 70 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2014, representing about 1.8% of total U.S. electricity consumption. Based on current trend estimates, U.S. data centers are projected to consume approximately 73 billion kWh in 2020. This energy consumption does not include the energy required to build, power or recharge the devices.
According to The Shift Project, a carbon transition think tank, the energy consumption required for digital technologies is increasing 9% each year and the share of digital technology in global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could double to 8% by 2025. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory analyzed 113 information technology companies in 2014 and found that only 14% of the energy consumed was from renewable sources.
The contrasts between electronic and paper communications are well-defined
The magnitude of the negative impacts resulting from the use of electronic communication should be cause enough for companies to abandon their unverifiable greenwashing claims that going digital is better for the environment, but the comparison with paper-based communication should seal the deal for those that are committed to responsible marketing practices.
Since its inception, Two Sides has been working to end corporate greenwashing of digital communication. For more information about Two Sides’ Anti-greenwash Campaign, click here.
For more facts on electronic communication and other paper sustainability topics, click here.