Ask most people whether paper or digital is greener, and the majority will answer digital. However, that's not always the case. PBS reported there is no hero in the war between paper and digital.
"We have to be careful when we pin one product against the other and say it's better. It's a tricky thing to do if you don't have all the data to back it up," Phil Irebel, president of Two Side US, a membership organization that represents the paper and print industry, said to The Guardian.
When corporations attempt to make one option the perfect resource for businesses, there are bound to be misconceptions.
Harmful consequences for the environment via digital
PBS reported that there is something called "grey energy" that is used to manufacture digital technology. It is not visible like the steam and waste paper distributors may produce, but it is much more harmful. According to Low-Tech Magazine, one kilogram of plastic or metal needs 1 to 10 hours of energy that would power a flat – screen television, and creating a memory chip takes the amount of energy a 3-year-old laptop would use.
This energy goes into making e-readers and tablets being used in place of paper products in the office and at home. Businesses often don't take these statistics into account and tend to believe digital is the greener option.
"What people often don't realize is that the paper-making process is sustainable, and claims to the contrary are misleading to the consumer," Mark Pitts, executive director of printing-writing at the American Forest And Paper Association, told The Guardian.
PBS reported that the North American forest products industry has greatly evolved in regard to forest sustainability and environmental performance practices. Many paper distributors have also begun to pay attention to these actions and gravitated toward the paper mills that have helped save trees.
Ulterior motives to save money
Despite the popularity of touting how going digital is beneficial for the environment, The Guardian reported that many organizations aren't actually worried about going green – they're more worried about saving money. Consumers are not clueless as to why companies are going digital. The source mentioned that when a business attempts to push e-billing and invoice automation on customers, they become suspicious. A Two Sides survey found that eight out of 10 people suspect there is an ulterior motive when they're asked to make the change to electronic payments.
"For 99.9 percent of projects, the green initiative has nothing to do with it," Shamel Naguib, president at Paperless Productivity, which helps medium to large companies, including healthcare and banking institutions, reduce or eliminate their paper documents by going electronic, told the source. "It has everything to do with saving money."
For those actually worried about helping the environment and making themselves greener, paper is the way to go. The best way for organizations to use paper products efficiently is for them to conduct research on which paper manufacturer has the best practices and how much they impact the environment. There are various forms of paper, so there is not a blanket statistic for how green paper is, according to The Guardian.
Before any business attempts to go green, it needs to do its research and find out what the true statistics are. Assuming digital is greener alone is not an efficient strategy. Companies risk denying customers and themselves environmental benefits if they move to digital without second thought. Additionally, most consumers prefer paper. According to the Two Sides survey, 64 percent of customers wouldn't even choose a company that did not offer a paper option for billing alone. Organizations need to consider these facts before moving to digital and risking their relationship with clientele and the environment.