If you prefer to read from paper instead of an electronic screen, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey commissioned by Two Sides, the fast-growing non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production, use and sustainability of print and paper, 70 percent of Americans, including 69 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds, say they prefer to read print and paper communications than reading off a screen.
Most of those surveyed also believe that paper records are more sustainable than electronic record storage (68 percent) and that paper is more pleasant to handle and touch than other media (67 percent). But survey results also show that many Americans still have misconceptions about the environmental impacts of print and paper.
“Even though most Americans still prefer print over electronic communications, they also have misconceptions about the effects of paper-based communications on the environment,” says Two Sides President Phil Riebel. “In fact, print and paper have a great environmental story to tell, and Two Sides is committed to setting the record straight using factual information from well-known, credible sources.”
The Two Sides survey indicates a majority of respondents are concerned about the effect of print and paper production on forests and believe that there is a connection between the loss of tropical rainforests and the manufacture of paper, but data from a variety of sources show these beliefs to be unfounded.
“Authoritative sources like the U.S. Forest Service, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and others report that the amount of forestland in the United States has remained nearly the same over the last century at about 750 million acres, and the major cause of global deforestation is not papermaking, but the conversion of tropical rainforests to agricultural land,” Riebel says.
While 96 percent of survey respondents said they believe recyclability is a sign of environmentally responsible products, most significantly underestimated the amount of U.S. paper that’s actually recycled each year. “Most people think the U.S. paper recycling rate is between 20 and 40 percent,” Riebel explains, “but American Forest and Paper Association data show that more than 63 percent of all paper used in the United States in 2010 was recycled. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that’s more than any other commodity, including plastics, glass and metals. The industry has set a goal to exceed 70 percent of all paper recovered for recycling by 2020.”
The survey also found that more than half respondents believe that electronic communications are a more environmentally friendly way to read books, magazines and mail. “That’s another myth that has been perpetuated by financial institutions, utilities and other organizations that are trying to save money by encouraging consumers to go green by going paperless,” Riebel says. “The fact is that both electronic and paper-based communications have an environmental footprint, and making both smaller is the right environmental choice.”
Earlier this month, Two Sides launched its U.S. website, www.twosides.us, as a resource for consumers, the media and others who are looking for a trustworthy resource for factual information on the environmental sustainability of print and paper. The website offers a “myths and facts" section that dispels many of the common misconceptions about the medium’s environmental impacts, including citations from authoritative sources with links to original source documents.