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We can print if we want to

Published on May 18, 2011

The heated discussion about saving trees continues. Frank's opinion? Printing is good and actually SAVES trees while the modern computer is a pile of toxic energy waste.

Hi this is Frank Romano for WhatTheyThink.com. Several articles have recently appeared about paper and print. This first one, Save a Forest, Print your Email. I agree with them. I’m tired of people putting that thing at the bottom, “don’t print your emails”. There were times when I want to print my email. I need to print my email. I need to be reminded of something.

I don’t have the computer with me all the time. Sometimes I go to a meeting and I have a printout that tells me where I have to go and what I have to do. It helps if you’re going to give a speech to a group. And we have more trees in America than we had 100 years ago. This message is not getting out. What we’re seeing is reverse messaging that says that somehow we’re doing bad things with trees. We’re not. We’re doing good things with trees.

And so there’s nothing wrong because if you wipe out the forests or if you leave the forest alone to some extent because the same thing happens in both cases, because you wipe them out they’re going to pave them over. And if you leave them the way they are, they’ll be overgrown, there’ll be forest fires and they’ll be empty anyway, and they’ll pave them over. In other words, it’s not a pretty sight. We need someone to go back and replant trees on a regular basis. If we don’t have paper, there’s no reason to do that. And so we’ll put all asphalt over it all and become a giant parking lot. And then printers have to pay all this money to prove that they’re doing the right thing. In an article in Fast Company is starting to show that some of these certification organizations are full of it. They’re full of tree fertilizer.

The fact is that we don’t need someone to tell us that we’re doing the right thing, and they keep raising the rates so they pay themselves so much money they have become a new source of income. And the printers are paying for that. Only to prove that they’re doing the right thing to those few customers because most customers don’t care. It’s all pulp fiction. We have a situation where paper has become the enemy and print has become its accessory. And that’s not true. We need print and we need paper. Now yes, there are cases where I don’t need paper and that’s great; don’t use it. But there are cases when I do need it and I should not feel guilty because I use paper. It’s a good thing. It’s renewable. It’s recyclable.

You can’t do that with your computer. You’re going to bury all that electronic stuff in the ground, it’s going to leach into our water and destroy our planet for the next thousand years, for what? So you saved a few pennies here and there. You thought that you were saving money because the computer seemed to be cheaper. That email seems to be effortless, costless. Well there is a cost associated with it. It’s our environment. It’s our planet. So computers are not pure either. In fact, in order to say, “Do not print this email,” you have to be on email which means you’re using energy, that energy is being generated by fossil fuels. There are server farms being cooled by rivers, the heaping generator is unbelievable but we live in a society that’s got it all wrong. Just because this new thing seems so easy and so simple, the computer, it doesn’t mean that paper is a bad thing.

So if you look at what’s happening out there, it seems that the messaging is going to the other side. Our message is just not getting out there. We need to get someone out there who people respect to tell the truth about paper and printing and communication.

And if you have to print that email, print it. And if you don’t have to print that email, don’t print it. And that’s my opinion.

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By Pat Berger on May 18, 2011


Ohio's forest coverage has gone from 6% in 1900 to over 18% today a 300% increase.
You did forget that paper is a carbon sequestering media unlike computers which are totally carbon users.


By Jeff Bayard on May 18, 2011

Trees are a natural renewable resource, recyclable and we manage them well. I print alot of my emails as I would rather read from paper. I see trees as a crop... Frank is "right on".


By Dan Korn on May 18, 2011

Sure, print if you need to. But you make it sound as if printing doesn't use resources other than paper too, which, of course, it does. Printing devices are made of the same kinds of stuff as computers (actually, they ARE computers), and they will all end up in landfills eventually too. Not to mention that it does take more electricity to print the thing I'm already reading on my screen than it does to not print it.

As for the blurbs people put at the bottom of their emails, they don't usually say, "Don't print this." They generally say something like, "Please consider the environment before printing this email." And indeed you have considered it, which is a good thing. If anything, the real waste of time an energy are those useless legal instructions at the bottoms of so many emails.


By Joe Webb on May 18, 2011

I'm disappointed Frank. I thought for sure "You Can Print if You Want To" would have led to some of your famous parody lyrics to "You Can Dance if You Want To" by Men in Hats.... and then paving forests? Gosh, where are your lyrics to "Pave Paradise, Put Up a Parking Lot" by Joni Mitchell. Frank, Frank, Frank, the music parody business needs you! Please come back!

As far as not printing out e-mails, I love the comments at the ends of e-mails that say things like "turn off your servers overnight" and the like. That means a whole lot more.

As far as printers "paying" for certification, it's not just an outright payment. It's a contributing factor that raises the costs of printing, makes them attempt to make compensatory costs elsewhere, and paradoxically, makes them less able to compete with other media. If they would invest in new technology and capabilities at the same rate they pay for certifications, that would go a long way to their being better able to create new services that took advantage of other media. Instead, they make defensive investments like this, and they rarely have the payback they expect.

To the tune of Paved Paradise, Put Up a Parking Lot

They paved down the trees
And put up a server farm
With a Starbucks, Panera
And a wi-fi hot... spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
‘Til it's gone
They paved down the trees
And put up a server farm...

There... now it's your turn...


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