‘Print Grows Trees’ debate opens a fresh debate

PrintGrowsTreesPrint has always been dinged hard by those promoting digital communications as the green alternative. And why not? We’ve seen excesses that are so revolting –boxes of glossy annual reports that have to be tossed, multiple-page bank statements etc.

The Print Council has been very sensitive to that in their PR, and has a talking points document called “The fine print” to rebut those arguments.

So this campaign is not surprising. Called Print Grows Trees, it attempts to communicate some aspects of the print industry and its relation to forests. Specifically “to show that print on paper actually helps to grow trees and keep our forests from being sold for development.”

Let’s face it: Many of us who have gone digital are big fans of print; it’s not a simple either/or choice. We buy newspapers and magazines, but avoid picking up brochures and flyers whenever we could download them and read them as a digital file. We encourage people to ‘think before you print’ but we do carry business cards (GreenNurture uses Quick Response tags on business cards to avoid brochures) using recycled paper, printed with vegetable inks.

Print on demand, and Personal URLs (‘those ‘PURLs’) are some of the solutions that almost every printer now offers. PODI, the Print On Demand Initiative, educates members and everyone else about print and social media, QR codes etc. So yes, the print industry has done some good things to erase the dead-tree stigma. This campaign though seems to push the envelope (bad choice of word?) a bit.

It definitely –deliberately–frames the debate as an economic problem-solution and not just an environmental one. Is it a dangerous myth, as Jay Purdue and others suggest, one that “has significant environmental and economic consequences” to say that print kills trees? If you haven’t run into the seemingly oxymoronic term ‘digital deforestation‘ be prepared to hear more about it in the next few months.

Or is Print Grows Trees a symptom of ‘tree guilt’ felt not just the print industry but by all of us when we forget to turn on the double-sided feature before hitting Control-P?

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