How you are Missing out by Going Paperless

Meet the writer: Karen Pieper

Hi, I'm Karen! I've been in the industry for 18 years and can't wait to share my perspective on all things direct mail. I'm currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Letter Jacket Envelopes and deal with tasks from managing the website, facilitating conversations with customers, and much more!

There is no denying that green is in.  Everywhere you turn companies are wooing the environmentally-conscious customer by claiming that their paper-free billing, whether it’s e-billing or e-statements, is “better for the environment” or “saves trees.”  But these same companies pay very little, or no, attention to the environmental impact of their digital infrastructure. So, is going paperless true?

Many of these same claims that are being made by so many organizations are either unsubstantiated or misleading. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has stated that “Marketers should not make broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims like ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly.’ Broad claims are difficult to substantiate, if not impossible.” They have also established “green” guidelines to help define what can and can’t be claimed.

There are other, very important, things to consider when looking at what the proponents of “going paperless” are claiming before accepting those claims on face value. Two Sides is a global initiative by companies from the Graphic Communications Industry including forestry, pulp, paper, inks and chemicals, prepress, press, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and postal operators. The initiative is promoting the sustainability and attractiveness of the Graphics Communications Industry by examining and dispelling frequent and commonly-held misconceptions. It has been examining what has been labeled as a “greenwash campaign” by those in the industry; the following information is based on some of their key findings.

Going Paperless is not Viable

  • Paper is the single most recycled item with a recovery rate of 65% in North America.
  • Print on paper comes from a renewable resource. Trees are grown in well-managed North American forests.
  • We grow twice as much wood as we harvest each year and forest volume has increased by almost 50 percent in the last 60 years.
  • By avoiding paper use, the market for wood dries up, and the likely result will be much of our forest being converted to urban development or agriculture and will result in significant loss of forest land.
  • Unsubstantiated environmental marketing claims like “go paperless, go green” threaten millions of jobs in North America.

Going paperless has been a term both talked about and tossed about for over 30 years but it still hasn’t happened. In theory, or “on paper,” it seemed like a good idea…but, in reality, it hasn’t worked out. The truth is…paper is often the best tool for a job. In some situations, it is the only tool for the job. Paper will not break, run out of batteries or need upgrading. And it is easily accessible to everyone. Not everyone has access to computers with Internet access. This is a major drawback for proponents of paperless processes.

Despite the push towards paperless by numerous organizations, paper use is actually increasing rather than decreasing. When presented with an e-mail requiring some action or an e-Book assigned in class, the first action is often to print the needed document so it can be accessed anywhere at any time.

There are other reasons why going paperless won’t work. Technology is expensive, and it has a short, limited shelf life. Since technology is constantly upgrading and improving what is on the market, whatever device you buy today for your home, office or school will soon be obsolete. And all the data filed away electronically may be out of reach if you don’t have the required means to access it. An example of this is yearbooks. Almost twenty years ago, yearbook publishers started offering digital books and supplements instead of the time-honored hardback version. Today, if you wanted to look at those yearbooks you would need a computer that runs Windows 95 with a CD-ROM drive and software from a company that no longer exists. Or you could pull out your hardcover yearbook and leisurely thumb through it.

Going paperless will never be entirely possible because it is not economically feasible. We will always need paper for its accessibility and security. Vast amounts of data are still accessible only on paper. And the paper and graphics communication industry are an important part of our economy. For example, a total of 7.5 million jobs and $1.4 trillion in sales revenue depend on the U.S. mailing industry, including production, distribution, and handling of mail as well as paper production and printing. This is an important side of the “paperless” debate that needs to be realized.

Letter Jacket is an important part of this vital industry. So when you choose to not go paperless,  regardless of the type of envelope you need, make sure to take advantage of Letter Jacket’s high-quality envelopes, available in multiple sizes, shapes, and colors.

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