Unmasking Greenwashing: The Consequences and the Cure

In our increasingly environmentally conscious world, it’s common for companies to tout their green initiatives and environmentally friendly practices, and that’s just good business.  But all too often, companies claim benefits –  like the environmental superiority of “recyclable plastic” packaging or “going green” by switching from paper to electronic communications — as a way to cloak poor environmental performance or mask cost-cutting efforts. With no sound scientific evidence to back them up, these types of claims are textbook greenwashing.  

Some of the consequences of greenwashing are obvious.  Clearly, unsubstantiated environmental claims mislead consumers, often causing them to take actions they would not otherwise consider. As reported previously by Two Sides North America (TSNA), psychological research has shown that when people see and hear unsubstantiated claims over and over again, they start to believe them as true, and ultimately incorporate them into their decision making. A 2022 TSNA study confirmed this finding. The study showed that among Americans who had repeatedly seen “go green, go paperless” and similar claims from their banks, utility companies and other services providers, 65% were influenced to switch from paper to electronic bills and statements.

Greenwashing claims can also cause reputational harm, not only damaging the credibility of companies that make such claims, but also casting doubt over the valid claims of companies that are contributing to real environmental progress.  The U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s “Green Guides” provide very specific guidance related to environmental claims, stating that “claims must be truthful, not misleading and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.” Unfortunately, this guidance is often ignored.

Hidden Consequences

One of the least discussed but most damaging consequences of paper-related greenwashing is economic in nature. When respected companies, media and producers of competing materials make unsubstantiated environmental claims, they negatively influence consumers’ perceptions of paper products and put at risk the livelihoods of workers across the print, paper, paper-based packaging and mail sector.  A recent study by the Envelope Manufacturers Association Foundation reported that this sector accounts for 7.9 million workers who make up 5% of the U.S. workforce and contribute nearly $2 trillion to the U.S. economy.  From papermakers, printers and converting equipment operators to graphic designers, paper industry suppliers and mail management and distribution employees, greenwashing creates economic vulnerabilities for many.  

The Greenwashing Cure: Accountability

The way to eliminate paper-related greenwashing by corporations, media and producers of competing materials is to hold them accountable for their bogus claims.  Two Sides North America is the only industry organization doing just that.

Two Sides directly 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. So far this year, TSNA has persuaded 24 more companies and two state/provincial government agencies to remove unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper, which translates to roughly 239 million consumers who are no longer seeing anti-paper greenwashing claims from these service providers.  

Two Sides also defends the sustainability of paper and paper-based packaging in the media, most recently in our letters to the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times and Office Products International (OPI) News. 

“Paper is one of the few products on earth that already has an environmentally sustainable, circular life cycle,” says TSNA President Kathi Rowzie. “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 a lot of water, but actually consumes very little of it. And paper products are recycled more than any other material in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. But many consumers believe paper is bad for the environment because corporations, the media and other organizations they trust are telling them so. The Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign is working hard to change that.”

You Can Help!

If you see greenwashing claims like “go green, go paperless” from companies you do business with, or media stories promoting alternative types of packaging as environmentally superior to paper, send a pdf or jpg snip of the claims or forward the offending email to the Two Sides North America Anti-Greenwashing Campaign at info@twosidesna.org.

TSNA Responds to Wall Street Journal Article

On Friday, November 3 (November 4 in the print edition), the Wall Street Journal published an article titled Citi to Cardholders: Go Paperless or Else about Citigroup’s decision to cut off all online and app communications with their customers who refuse to go paperless. Two Sides North America sent the following letter to the editors of the WSJ the same day.

Citigroup’s Paperless Mistake

Recent survey data validates the backlash shown on the WSJ website in response to Citigroup’s decision to cut off all electronic communications to consumers who refuse to go paperless. Commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by international research firm Toluna, the survey showed that 81% of Americans, including more than half of 18- to 24-year-olds, believe they should have the right to choose between paper and electronic communications from their banks and other service providers, and 73% believe they should not be charged extra for receiving a paper bill or statement. 46% of consumers said they would consider switching to an alternate provider if their current one forced them to go paperless, up from 41% in 2021.

As the WSJ story mentions, other financial institutions succumb to the temptation to wrap similar paperless initiatives in scientifically dubious greenwashing claims, but credit Citigroup at least for not going down that worn out road. Too often we see other banks claiming they’re “improving the environment” by shifting customers to electronic delivery while scrupulously avoiding any mention of the enormous energy and other environmental costs of electronic communication. By comparison, paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource (trees grown in sustainably managed forests) in a process that in the U.S. uses mostly renewable bioenergy and consumes very little water.  And with a recovery rate of 68%, paper is recycled more than any other material in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream.

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

Phone:  937-999-7729

About Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is part of the non-profit Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies in the print and paper products supply chain across North America, South America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our mission is to dispel common environmental misconceptions and to inspire and inform businesses and consumers with engaging, factual information about the inherent environmental sustainability and enduring value of print, paper and paper-based packaging.

The Two Sides North America 2023 Trend Tracker Survey queried 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 18 and older in January 2023.

 

 

 

Unplugged: The Resilience of Traditional Media

With a recent poll1 concluding that the majority of Americans would prefer to return to pre-internet days, are we just seeing a nostalgic yearning for simpler times or is there something deeper and more complex going on?

The poll revealed that the desire to return to an unplugged era is surprisingly strong among the younger generation, and is not strikingly different from those who are old enough to remember not having smartphones and easy internet access. While 77% of Americans aged 35-54 said they would prefer a return to their analog roots – the highest of any group in the survey – an eyebrow-raising 63% of 18- to 34-year-olds also agreed with the sentiment. But a desire to disconnect isn’t simply a matter of nostalgia.

Hybrid Working

The survey also revealed that 57% of people under 35 agreed with the statement that technology is “more likely to divide people than unite them” – an indication that the social media generation may be growing weary – and wary – of the world of feuding tech billionaires, Chat GPT and Deepfake. But beyond the attention-grabbing posts, there are subtler moves at play.

Research from Keypoint Intelligence reveals that the paperless office is less appealing to the workforce than managers seem to think. A survey of nearly 500 general office workers between the ages of 18 and 69 showed that 62% always or sometimes preferred working on paper, with employees under 35 more likely to prefer working with paper than their older counterparts2. This finding contradicts the assumption that younger generations view print as old-fashioned and irrelevant, when the opposite is often the case. While most adopt a hybrid approach to working, using each technology where most appropriate, the fact remains that pen and paper are often deemed the most effective tools for certain tasks.

The Power of Paper

This surprising preference for paper is borne out by the experience of Taymoor Atighetchi, founder and CEO of the stationery company Papier, which has been a start-up success story since it launched in 2015. “Nostalgia alone isn’t going to build a business,” he says. “The majority of our customers are 25 to 35, so they have got nothing really to reference. The internet was already around when they were born. I think it’s something deeper than nostalgia, something innate and human about receiving physical products.”

Notably, Papier is first and foremost an e-commerce brand. By utilizing the power of digital publishing, it offers print-to-order personalized stationery that ranges from notepads and writing papers to wedding invitations, cards, calendars and planners.

“There are studies that show that when people connect their mind to pen and paper, more thought goes into it,” says Atighetchi. “There’s magic that happens there, compared to when you are writing on WhatsApp. Something happens that makes that message more meaningful.”

From corporate communications to personal letters, from adult coloring books to a surging interest in Origami, it seems that most of us prefer a hands-on, tactile approach to productivity and creativity once in a while. And for those of us who find the demands of the digital-first lifestyle stressful at times, paper may provide just the moment of zen we need.

1 The Harris Poll, June 2023

2 United States Future of Work Survey, Keypoint Intelligence, 2022

New Two Sides North America Survey Shows Improvement in Consumer Attitudes about Paper Products and the Environment

DAYTON, Ohio – April 27, 2023 – As U.S. consumers become increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of the products they use every day, there remains a wide gap between perception and reality when it comes to the sustainability of paper products – but the gap has narrowed over the past two years. Overall, 44% of consumers believe paper products are bad for the environment, down from 48% in 2021. This according to a new survey commissioned by Two Sides North America and conducted by global research firm Toluna.

“It’s great to see improvement in consumer attitudes about paper and the environment, but we need to accelerate this trend if paper products are to remain competitive in an ever-changing marketplace,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “More and more consumers are factoring environmental impacts into their purchasing decisions, but all too often those decisions are based on longstanding myths, pop culture headlines and corporate greenwashing rather than facts,” she explains. “Everyone whose livelihood depends on paper has a role in changing this. As the world moves toward a more sustainable, circular economy, the paper and paper-based packaging industry has a great, fact-based environmental story to tell: The life cycle of paper is already circular.”

What’s happening to the size of U.S. forest area?

Paper use is often blamed for forest loss, and 55% of those surveyed believe U.S. forests are shrinking, an improvement over 2021, when 60% of consumers said they believe U.S. forest area is decreasing. The facts: U.S. forest area grew by 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s most recent Global Forest Resources Assessment. That’s an area equivalent to 1,200 NFL football fields every day. Contrary to the popular belief that manufacturing and using paper destroys forests, the demand for sustainably sourced paper and paper-based packaging creates a powerful financial incentive for millions of private landowners not only to manage and harvest their land responsibly, but also to keep it forested rather than converting it to non-forest use or selling it for development, the leading cause of deforestation in the United States according to the U.S. Forest Service.

What percentage of paper is recycled?

Paper recycling in the United States is a hands down environmental success story, but most consumers don’t know it. According to the survey, only 12% of consumers know the U.S. recycling rate exceeds 60%, up from 11% in 2021. Four in 10 consumers believe the paper recycling rate is less than 30%. The facts: More than two-thirds (68%) of all paper and paper-based packaging in the U.S. is recycled, and more than 91% of corrugated cardboard is recycled according to the American Forest and Paper Association. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that paper is the most recycled material in the country, compared to plastics at 9%, glass at 25% and metals at 34%.

Is electronic communication more environmentally friendly than paper-based communication?

As companies continue to resort to unsubstantiated “go green, go paperless” marketing claims to help them cut costs, 68% of consumers surveyed believe that electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than print on paper, up from 67% in 2021. Clearly, consumers want to do the right things when it comes to the environment, but are often misled by corporate greenwashing that fails to acknowledge the environmental impacts of digital communication.

The facts: The EPA reports that the pulp and paper industry accounts for only 0.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – which isn’t surprising since 64% of the energy needs at U.S. pulp and paper mills are met using renewable, carbon neutral biofuels, mostly biomass. In contrast, the rapidly expanding information communication technology (ICT) industry has a growing carbon footprint arising from GHGs released during all stages of the electronics life cycle. A recent meta-analysis (Freitag, Berners-Lee, et al, 2022) estimates the ICT industry is responsible for up to 3.9% of global GHG emissions and that those emissions will continue to increase without both regulatory and industrial intervention. Unlike the recycling success story of paper products, only 15% of the approximately 7 million metric tons of e-waste generated in the United States each year gets recycled, according to the 2020 Global E-waste Monitor. The rest is landfilled, burned or dumped, causing harm to both the environment and human health.

“The life cycle of paper products is circular by nature,” Rowzie explains. “The raw material used to make them is perpetually regrown, the energy used to manufacture them is generated using mostly renewable, carbon-neutral biofuel, and the circle is completed as used paper is recycled into new products at a higher rate than any other material. Even so, our survey shows that misconceptions about the sustainability of paper products are commonplace. It’s just these types of misconceptions that Two Sides is working to correct. We believe consumers have the right to make purchasing choices based on data and hard facts, free from pop mythology and greenwashing.”

The 2023 Two Sides Trend Tracker Survey queried 1,000 respondents over age 18 across the United States. It is the second of Two Sides’ biennial trend tracker studies designed to explore and better understand consumer perceptions, behaviors and preferences related to the sustainability of paper products.

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Download the press release here.

About Two Sides North America

Two Sides North America (www.twosidesna.org) is part of the non-profit Two Sides global network which includes more than 600 member companies across North America, South America, Latin America, Europe, Australia and South Africa. Our mission is to dispel common environmental misconceptions and to inspire and inform businesses and consumers with engaging, factual information about the inherent environmental sustainability and enduring value of print, paper and  paper-based packaging.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

P:  937-999-7729

E:  info@twosidesna.org

40 Million More Consumers Now Safeguarded from Anti-paper Greenwashing

Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign Kicks off 2023 with Big Wins

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 info@twosidesna.org.

 

 

 

Two Sides Submits Comments to FTC

The Need for the Green Guides is as Urgent as Ever

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently announced its intent to review its Green Guides (Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims), asking for public comment to determine if the Guides should be retained and, if so, how they can be improved. Two Sides responded, telling the FTC that the Guides are needed now more than ever, and provided several recommendations for improvement.

First published in 1992 and most recently revised in 2012, The Green Guides were developed to help marketers avoid using unsubstantiated environmental claims that mislead consumers. They have been an invaluable tool in Two Sides’ Anti-Greenwashing Campaign to persuade major corporations and other organizations to eliminate anti-paper “Go Green, Go Paperless” claims from their customer communications.

Research conducted by Two Sides last year found that 65% of U.S. consumers who have seen anti-paper greenwashing claims from their service providers are influenced to switch from paper to electronic communications. The study also showed that the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign is having a powerful impact, preserving more than $308 million in revenue for the print, paper and mailing sector each year.

You can help Two Sides put an end to deceptive greenwashing claims that ultimately damage every business in the print and paper industry. If you see anti-paper greenwashing claims from your service providers, please scan or snip a copy and send it to info@twosidesna.org.

Download a copy of Two Sides’ comments to the FTC here.

The deadline for submitting comments on the FTC Green Guides has been extended from February 21 to April 24.  If your company or organization wishes to submit comments on the Guides, you may do so here.

 

Is going paperless really better for the environment?

Many companies 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 standards from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Competition Bureau of Canada, the UN Environment Programme, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 14021), the World Federation of Advertisers and others that say marketers should not make broad, unsubstantiated environmental benefit claims like “green” and “environmentally friendly,” and that all environmental claims must be supported by competent and verifiable scientific evidence.

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 2021 study by the Pew Research Center, the vast majority of Americans (85%) 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. 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 most recent Global E-waste Monitor (GEM), a record 53.6 million metric tons (Mt) of electronic waste was generated in 2019, up 21% in just five years. For perspective, this 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 in 2019. The U.S. and Canada collectively generated 7.7 Mt of electronic waste. That’s 46 lbs. per person, and nearly three times the worldwide per capita generation of 16 lbs.

The report also predicted that 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 view electronic devices 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 in the cloud, which makes the physical reality of use all the more imperceptible and leads to underestimating the direct environmental impacts of digital technology.

Global tech giant Cisco estimates that by 2023, 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, with estimated 2020 consumption at around 73 billion kWh. This energy consumption does not include the energy required to drill and mine for raw materials, 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 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.

  • Paper is made from an infinitely renewable natural resource – trees that are purpose-grown in sustainably managed forests. Contrary to myth that forests are shrinking, U.S. net forest area expanded by approximately 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020 (UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2020 Global Forest Resources Assessment).
  • With a recovery rate of 68%, paper is recycled more than any other material in the U.S. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – EPA).
  • More than half of the energy used to manufacture paper in the U.S. comes from renewable carbon-neutral sources, mostly biomass (American Forest and Paper Association – AF&PA).
  • The U.S. pulp and paper industry is responsible for only 0.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (U.S. EPA).
  • The U.S. paper industry has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 24% since 2005 (AF&PA).
  • The water used to manufacture paper in a typical U.S. paper mill is recycled 8 to 10 times. It is then cleaned to meet strict federal and state water quality standards and is returned to its source. Most of the rest evaporates back into the environment, with about 1% remaining in the manufactured products (National Council on Air and Stream Improvement – NCASI).
  • Approximately 98% of the chemicals used in in the kraft papermaking process are recovered and recycled (NCASI).

Since its inception, Two Sides has been working to end anti-paper greenwashing.  For more information about Two Sides’ Anti-greenwash Campaign, click here.

For more facts on paper sustainability topics, click here.

 

Inflation Accelerates Anti-paper Greenwashing As Companies Look to Cut Costs

Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign Responds With Record-breaking Success

CHICAGO – July 27, 2022 – For years, major corporations, service providers and government agencies have surrendered to the temptation to cloak their cost saving efforts in a veneer of environmental virtue by claiming – without evidence – that going paperless is better for the environment. Two Sides North America (TSNA), the only industry organization to directly challenge this greenwashing, has been highly effective in stemming the tide of misleading declarations, persuading 170 major organizations to remove anti-paper environmental claims.

However, as rising inflationary pressures drive cost cutting, greenwashing is once again on the rise. To help reverse this trend, TSNA has doubled down on its anti-greenwashing efforts, and with unprecedented success. So far this year, TSNA has already broken its full-year record for the number of corporations and other organizations it has persuaded to eliminate anti-paper greenwashing claims.

“Since its inception, the Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has eliminated literally billions of instances of greenwashing in the United States and Canada, and the 24 large organizations that removed misleading claims from January through July represent millions more,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie. “These type of 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. 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 and other organizations 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 greenwashing and protect North American jobs. If you see instances of anti-paper greenwashing, please send them in a PDF, JPG file or link to info@twosidesna.org.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

info@twosidesna.org

937-999-7729

About Two Sides

Two Sides is a global, member-funded non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the uniquely sustainable attributes of print, paper and paper-based packaging. Two Sides’ members span the entire print, paper and paper-based packaging value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, packaging, inks and chemicals, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and mail operators.  For more information, visit www.twosidesna.org.

 

What Would Ben Franklin Do?

Making the Environmental Case for Paper

 

By Kathi Rowzie, President, Two Sides North America

This article was originally published in the March/April 2022 edition of Mailing Systems Technology Magazine.

Mail center professionals, who already operate in a challenging business environment, are increasingly faced with the task of responding to the popular, but scientifically flawed narrative that the paper critical to their operations is somehow environmentally unsustainable. If this describes you, then Ben Franklin, father of the Postal Service and first U.S. postmaster general, offers some sage advice: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

In our increasingly digital world, knowledge – knowing the facts about the unique sustainability of paper – is a potent antidote to the common environmental myths used to justify replacing paper mail with electronic communications: that paper production and use destroys forests, is a major contributor to climate change, consumes enormous amounts of water and generates excessive amounts of waste.

Whether you are the leader of an in-plant mailing operation or the CEO of a company delivering mailing solutions to customers around the globe, these “go paperless” conversations will eventually land on your doorstep, if they haven’t already. To demonstrate to your management, investors, customers and other stakeholders that print on paper is a truly sustainable choice, both today and in the future, you need to be armed with the facts.

Fortunately, there is an arsenal of data to help you make the case for the sustainability paper.

Myth: Using paper causes deforestation and destroys forests

In the United States, trees to make paper are grown, harvested and regrown using sustainable forest management practices that perpetuate infinitely renewable forestlands. While the paper industry was producing products that enrich the lives of consumers, net forestland area in the United States actually increased 18 million acres between 1990 and 2020, according to the latest Global Forest Resources Assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). That’s an area equivalent to 1,200 NFL football fields every day!

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) reports that less than 2% of U.S. forestland is harvested each year, compared with 3% that is disturbed annually by natural causes like fire, insects and disease, and most of this 2% of harvested wood is used for non-paper purposes.

Contrary to the myth that paper destroys forests, the production of paper products is a powerful economic engine and driving force in keeping U.S. 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 paper 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.

So, is deforestation in the U.S. a real concern? Yes, but using paper is not the cause. The FAO defines deforestation as the permanent loss of forestland. In fact, the definition specifically excludes logging for the production of paper and other products because trees in these “working forests” are expected to grow back, either through natural regeneration or sustainable forestry practices. In the United States, the primary cause of forest loss is rapidly expanding urban development, this according to the USFS.

Myth: Paper is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change

According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),  the pulp and paper industry is responsible for only 0.5% of total annual U.S. GHG emissions. These very low emissions are due to decades of energy efficiency and process improvements at U.S paper mills, and to the fact that the U.S. paper industry generates two-thirds of the energy to manufacture its products using renewable, carbon-neutral fuels, primarily biomass.

According to the EPA, the paper industry produces more carbon-neutral bioenergy than any other industrial sector, using mostly wood-based leftovers from the papermaking process. This bioenergy use prevents around 181 million metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year – roughly equivalent to removing 35 million cars from the road.

Myth: Paper manufacturing consumes enormous amounts of water

While it’s true that the paper industry uses large amounts of water to manufacture its products, most of that water is not consumed in the manufacturing process, this according to the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI). NCASI reports that water used in the papermaking process is recycled up to 10 times in a typical paper mill, and then nearly 90% of that water is cleaned to meet federal and state clean water standards before it is returned to its source. Most of the remaining water evaporates back into the environment, with around 1% retained in the manufactured paper.

Myth:  Paper generates excessive amounts of waste

When it comes to circularity, the idea that products should be reused or recycled, paper has all other materials beat hands down. Thanks to the paper industry’s voluntary, multi-billion dollar investments in commercial paper recovery infrastructure and to the commitment of millions of organizations and individual Americans who choose to recycle every day, U.S. paper recycling has nearly doubled over the past 20 years. At 68%, the EPA reports that the U.S. paper recovery rate is higher than any other material in the country, including plastics (9%), glass (25%) and metals (34%). The recovery rate of corrugated cardboard is 89%.

Myth:  Electronic communication is better for the environment than paper

The miniaturization of digital devices and the “invisibility” of the infrastructures needed to support them 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 and the direct environmental impacts of digital technology all the more imperceptible.

Any organization considering a paperless strategy for sustainability reasons must recognize that digital technology places enormous and growing burdens on the environment. Here too, the proof is in the data.

First, consider the environmentally intensive drilling and mining required to extract source materials from the earth. Computers, tablets and other electronic devices are made with non-renewable resources – fossil fuels, chemicals, precious metals, rare earth minerals and toxic minerals like lead, mercury and arsenic that are dangerous when released into the environment. Cisco, the worldwide leader in internet technology, projects that North America will have 5 billion networked devices in 2023, up from 3 billion in 2018 – a 40% increase. Cisco also projects that the average per capita number of devices and connections in the U.S. will reach 13.6 in 2023, far higher than the estimated 2023 global average of 3.6 devices per person.

Electronic devices and the massive server farms that support them are powered using mostly fossil fuels (only 17% of U.S. energy is generated from renewable sources). The Shift Project, a think tank focused on the shift to a post-carbon economy, reports that energy consumption for digital devices is increasing 9% each year, and the share of digital technologies in global greenhouse gas emissions increased by half between 2013 and 2019, from 2.5% to 3.7%.  A 2015 study (Andrae and Elder) estimates that the information technology sector could use as much as 51% of global electricity and contribute 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

And according to the most recent Global E-Waste Monitor report, electronic devices create nearly 7 million metric tons of e-waste annually in the U.S., and only 15% of that e-waste is recycled. Most of the remaining e-waste is either burned, landfilled or dumped.

Paper: A responsible environmental choice

 Digital technology has become an essential part of our everyday lives and is likely making beneficial contributions to your mailing operations, but it also has wide-ranging environmental impacts that continue to grow. While all manufacturing processes have an environmental footprint, the fact that paper is made with an infinitely renewable resource, is manufactured using mostly renewable, carbon-neutral energy, consumes very little water, is recyclable and is recycled more than any other material, makes a strong case for its continued use.

Two Sides North America (twosidesna.org)  is a non-profit organization whose members span the entire print, paper, paper-based packaging and mail value chain. Funded entirely by membership dues, Two Sides is the only industry organization that directly challenges unsubstantiated environmental claims about paper made by corporations, the media, government agencies and others. Two Sides also supports its members with factual, science-based resources to supplement their own sustainability efforts. Learn how to join at twosidesna.org/become-a-member/.

New Research Shows Anti-paper Greenwashing Works, Misleading U.S. Consumers to Switch from Paper to Electronic Bills and Statements

But Two Sides North America’s Anti-greenwashing Campaign Preserves Millions in Annual Revenue for the U.S. Paper, Printing and Mailing Sector

CHICAGO – May 18, 2022 – Anti-paper greenwashing works, unfairly costing the U.S. paper, printing and mailing sector huge sums in lost revenue each year. But Two Sides North America’s (TSNA) Anti-greenwashing Campaign is succeeding in eliminating many of these misleading claims, clawing back hundreds of millions for these businesses, according to the results of the latest TSNA study.

In their efforts to cut costs, many leading U.S. financial institutions, utilities, telecom companies and other service providers are using unsubstantiated environmental marketing claims – greenwashing – to persuade consumers to switch from paper to digital bills and statements, suggesting that going paperless is “green,” “saves trees” or is “better for the environment.”

The new TSNA research results illustrate the damaging effects these greenwashing claims have on the U.S. paper, printing and mailing sector, finding that 65% of those who have seen anti-paper greenwashing claims are influenced to switch from paper to electronic bills and statements. The study, conducted in partnership with global research firm Censuswide, also showed that the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign is having a powerful impact, preserving more than $308 million in annual revenue for the sector.

The Two Sides study surveyed 2000 U.S. consumers and evaluated data on major U.S. companies that have eliminated unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims as a result of the TSNA Anti-greenwashing Campaign. These companies represent approximately 9.5 billion annual bills and statements.

“This study not only confirms the remarkable success of Two Sides’ Anti-greenwashing Campaign, but also drives home the serious financial risk that greenwashing among service providers poses to the paper, printing and mailing sector, threatening the economic security of more than 7 million Americans whose livelihoods depend on paper,” says Two Sides North America President Kathi Rowzie.

In its most recent report (2020) on transactional mail, the U.S. Postal Service reported that U.S. households annually receive more than 15 billion bills and statements in the mail, representing 41% of total First Class mail. Bills are primarily from credit card companies, utilities, telephone/cable companies and insurance companies, while statements are predominantly sent from the financial/banking sector.

“The Two Sides Anti-greenwashing Campaign has been highly successful, but there’s much more work to do as service providers continue to distort the paper industry’s great environmental record and threaten paper, print and mail volumes with opportunistic greenwashing claims,” Rowzie says.

“And it’s important to note that banks, utilities and telecoms are not the only ones using unsubstantiated environmental claims to promote going paperless,” she adds. “Two Sides is also challenging entities like government agencies and large digital document management firms that are greenwashing to encourage both individual consumers and businesses to switch all paper communication to digital versions in the cloud, at the same time failing to recognize the vast and growing environmental footprint of electronic communication.”

Two Sides challenges greenwashing companies and other organizations 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 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 organizations seeking to cut costs or promote their own digital business objectives are telling them so. Two Sides is working hard to change that.”

For more information about the Two Sides North America Anti-greenwashing Campaign, visit www.twosidesna.org/anti-greenwash-campaign/.

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About Two Sides

Two Sides is a global, member-funded non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the uniquely sustainable attributes of print, paper and paper-based packaging. Two Sides’ members span the entire print, paper and paper-based packaging value chain, including forestry, pulp, paper, packaging, inks and chemicals, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and mail operators.  For more information, visit www.twosidesna.org.

Media Contact:

Kathi Rowzie, President

Two Sides North America

info@twosidesna.org

937-999-7729

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