Is Digital Really Greener than Paper?

Myth Vs Fact of Printing vs Digital

Paper vs digital media is an ongoing debate with paper often demonised as being old-fashioned and environmentally unfriendly. Recent controversy and backlash over the sustainability of plastics have brought the argument to the forefront again. The truth is that paper will never be eclipsed by digital media as, in many circumstances, it’s simplicity, familiarity and physical presence make it an essential element of the marketing toolkit. You need to choose the right promotional mix to suit your campaign, message, and marketplace and you’d be wrong in assuming that digital solutions are the environmentally friendlier option.

An article from the Independent reports that data centres have mushroomed from virtually nothing 10 years ago to consuming about 3 percent of the global electricity supply and accounting for about 2 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. That gives it the same carbon footprint as the airline industry. To put the size of this consumption into even sharper relief – the 416.2 terawatt hours of electricity the world’s data centres used last year was significantly higher than the UK’s total consumption of about 300 terawatt hours.

Additionally, although digital media does appear more sustainable, manufacturing electronic products also leaves a carbon footprint, as well as the energy needed to power them. And a growing concern is the rapid growth of discarded electronics, especially in developing countries.

Conversely, The Printing House sources all of its paper stock from Forest Stewardship Council accredited suppliers. FSC is the only wood certification scheme endorsed by the major environmental charities, including WWF, Greenpeace and The Woodland Trust. The FSC label guarantees that the trees which are harvested are replaced or allowed to regenerate naturally.

"What people often don't realise is that the paper-making process is sustainable, and claims to the contrary are misleading to the consumer," said Mark Pitts , Executive Director of Printing-Writing, at the American Forest And Paper Association (AFANDPA).

It isn’t an ‘either/or’ situation and if printed marketing works for you and your business, don’t feel you’re compromising your environmental credentials.

To read more about this subject, have a look at Two Sides, the print and paper industries website.