Making the Case for Printed Books

About a week ago we received our Graphic Arts Association e-Update and a specific article caught our eye. It alerted recipients to an article printed in the Washington Post entitled “iPads and Kindles are Better For The Environment Than Books”. Written by Brain Palmer, the article glorifies e-books, essentially saying that in comparison to print, e-readers are the “greener” option. Naturally this struck a chord with the Printing Industry of America’s CEO Mike Makin and he wrote a response letter making the case for print. We’ve posted the letter in its entirety below. Please, read and more importantly, share this article with as many people as possible to further solidify the notion that Print is GOOD!

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From the Office of the President and CEO

October 8, 2010
Mr. Fred Hiatt
Editorial Page Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15th St. NW Washington, DC 20071

Dear Mr. Hiatt:

This letter is in response to the 8/24/10 article “iPads and Kindles are better for the environment than books” by Mr. Brain Palmer which appeared in The Green Lantern column of The Washington Post. Unfortunately, the article did not present a full and complete representation of the comparison between printed books and e-readers and their impact on the environment. Therefore, Printing Industries of America would like to provide information on several areas of environmental impact of e-readers and books that were not included in the article and if considered, would not support Mr. Palmer’s conclusion.

The conclusions drawn by Mr. Palmer in regards to the environmental impact of e-readers and printed books are based on a limited number of attributes and fail to consider the complete life cycle of the two products. The only way to accurately compare the environmental impact of a product is to evaluate its entire lifecycle which includes raw material procurement, transportation, production process, product use, and final disposition. This article explores only some of the production aspects of each product and falls short of what would be considered an objective review of the facts.

Most concerning is the absence of a discussion about several critical aspects, specifically the issue of raw material sourcing, product use, and end of life implications. In addition, the assumptions made about ink production are not accurate. Regarding raw material sourcing, books are made primarily from paper, a completely renewable resource. North American forests are well managed and continue to increase in both land area and volume of timber grown.i E-readers, on the other hand, are made primarily from plastics derived from fossil fuels, and metals and minerals mined from the earth, which are not renewable.

The article compares the carbon footprint of producing e-readers and books, but misses one of the most critical components of any carbon footprint, the source of carbon emissions from the energy required to manufacture and use the product. A significant portion of the energy required to manufacture paper is renewable. In 2008, members of the American Forest and Paper Association derived 65% of the energy used at pulp and paper mills from renewable sources.(ii)  E-readers are manufactured primarily in Asia, where the most prevalent source of electricity is coal, a nonrenewable resource.

Paper based books require no energy to use. E-readers use batteries that must be charged with electricity on a frequent basis and the infrastructure that allows for the origination, storage, and dissemination of electronic data represented 1.5 percent of all electricity consumed in the United States in 2000.(iii) In 2009, nearly 70 percent of electricity in the United States, used both to charge e-readers and power electronic data centers, was generated from fossil fuels, which are not renewable.(iv)

The article also claims that ink production for books has a worse effect on the environment than production of e-readers. The author provides no references or meaningful support for this statement. Several lifecycle assessment studies of printed products indicate that paper represents the majority of the overall environmental impact of printed matter. Ink represents less than five percent of the overall impact of a printed product.v An article which compares the impact of e-readers and books found that the health effects of producing an e-reader (mainly due to air pollution) is 70 times that of producing a book.(vi)

Lastly, the article does not consider the end of life implications for each product. Books and e-readers have very different environmental impacts when it comes to end of life. First, paper based books can be easily recycled. As of 2008, American’s recycled 55.5 percent of all waste paper generated.vii The American Forest and Paper Association recently reported that in 2009, 63.4 percent of all waste paper available was collected for recycling.(viii)

Of the 2.76 million tons of electronic waste collected in 2008, only 13.6 percent was recovered for recycling.7 The remaining 2.38 million tons were discarded primarily in landfills, where improper management leads to releases of the heavy metals and other toxic chemicals contained in electronics, or shipped overseas. According to the Basal Action Network, 50-80 percent of electronics that are collected for “recycling” in America, are shipped overseas where they are often unsafely dismantled which includes the practice of burning the electronic devices to recover the exposed metals.ix Such practices often involve children who are exposed to the extremely toxic smoke and fumes and the residues also contaminate the air, soil, and groundwater.

Printing Industries of America continues to work with its members and the industry as a whole to foster an understanding of the environmental and economic benefits that can be achieved through the use of sustainable printing practices. Printing Industries of America is proud to be a founding organization of the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (, a program designed to recognize printers that are superior environmental performers. Printing Industries of America encourages The Washington Post to continue its focus and recognition of sustainable practices while providing objective and comprehensive reviews.

If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact me at 412-259-1777 or

Michael Makin
President and CEO Printing Industries of America 

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i Smith, W. Brad, Miles, Patrick D. Perry, Charles H. Pugh, Scott A. Forest Resources of the United States, 2007. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-78. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Washington Office, 2009.
ii AF&PA, Sustainability Report, 2010.
iii U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fact Sheet on National Data Center Energy Efficiency Information Program, March 19, 2008.
iv U.S. Energy Information Administration, Net Generation by Energy Source: Total (All Sectors), September 10, 2010.
v Nichols-Dobson, Phillipa. LCA applied to the Printing Industry. Pira International, September 8, 1997
vi Goleman, Daniel and Gregory Norris. How Green is My iPad? The New York Times, April 4, 2010.
vii U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States Detailed Tables and Figures for 2008. November, 2009.
viii AF&PA News Release. AF&PA announces increase in paper recovery, meets goal ahead of schedule. March 22, 2010.
ixPuckett, Jim, et al. Exporting Harm. February 25, 2002.


Direct Mail is Greener

Direct mail has long been a topic that breeds negativity amongst the general public. More recently, it has come into the spotlight for the harmful effects it can have on the environment. While it is true that mass printing and mailing to random (and un-qualified) prospects is wasteful, when done correctly direct marketing is, in essence, “greener” than other forms of marketing. Follow the simple guidelines below and “green” your direct mail for little to no extra cost.

1. Target your market

When buying or building marketing lists, ask yourself who you’re targeting. What   plays an important role in their buying tendencies: income, gender, location, marital status? Defining these parameters and classifying your leads accurately will allow for more targeted lists and result in better response rates.

2. Keep it Clean

Maintaining quality data is imperative when using direct mail. Data verification services are available that can verify addresses, find missing numbers and de-dupe your files. Cleaning up your lists maximizes the potential success rate, and minimizes your environmental impact by ensuring deliverability. Not sure where to start? Contact us and we can help.

3. Send the right offer

Make sure the offer you’re sending to prospects is the right one. Do this by conducting a test run of your piece and see what the response rate is. Determine whether the response rate you receive is sufficient, or if you need to change your message.

4. Send at the right time

Always keep in mind the time of year and mail delivery speed. Is it a week before the 4th of July? It’s likely your prospect is not in the office. Are you sending school supply information in September? Too late! Think about what time of year your prospects are likely to consider purchasing new products or services and send your pieces accordingly. Try to avoid sending direct mail pieces two weeks before a major holiday.

5. Make it personal

Personalize your pieces with your prospects’ first name, or include an image of a recognizable landmark. Making the pieces more meaningful allows you to send less but still receive great response rates. 1 to 1 marketing is crucial to any campaign’s success. Work with a printer experienced in variable data printing and include some conditional information. The message, price, and offer can vary in the same campaign. It may cost more per piece, but it is more efficient and renders better results, increasing return on investment. Contact us for more information on variable data printing.

6. Think outside the box

Direct mail needs to be eye-catching – after all you want your piece to stand out! Include some interesting images or use a unique tagline and bold colors. Don’t be afraid to be different. Make your pieces memorable and watch the sales roll in.

7. Print on recycled paper!

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to green your direct marketing is using paper that is recycled and/or recyclable. Find a printer that offers a variety of  recycled/PCW paper options. For little to no extra cost, you can print on eco-friendly paper and show your customers your green efforts.

When some or all of the above is done, direct mail results are positively impacted. Targeting a list and mailing fewer pieces reduces not only expenses, but also material and energy used. It also minimizes the amount of fossil fuel associated with transportation and waste. So the next time your company wants to implement a direct mail strategy, remember these steps to minimize your company’s carbon footprint and maximize the bottom line.

Green Mythbusters

There’s a lot of information out there concerning eco-friendly paper and sustainable printing. Unfortunately, most of it can be misleading.  Below, we debunk the 5 most popular myths about recycling, and show how going green is easier than you think!

Myth #1: Recycled paper is more expensive than un-recycled paper.

To the contrary, in some instances, recycled paper is actually cheaper than virgin-fiber (un-recycled) paper. In fact, we carry an extensive stock contained of solely recycled products, and much of it is the same, if not lower, cost than virgin paper.

Myth #2: Recycled paper produces sub-par results.

To the naked eye, the results appear almost identical. Colors look vibrant, and the images are clear and robust. There is often little to no quality lost from using recycled paper.  

Myth #3: Using recycled paper doesn’t make that big of a difference.

See the facts below from the EPA. Implementing recycled paper and sustainable print practices is always better for the environment than using virgin paper.

“Compared to using virgin wood, paper made with 100% recycled content uses 44% less energy, emits 38% less greenhouse gas emissions, 41% less particulate emissions, 50% less wastewater, 49% less solid waste, and of course, 100% less wood.”

Myth #4: Printing less is the best way to help the environment.

Actually, the opposite is true. As time progresses, more fibers used in making pulp for paper comes from managed forests. Managed forests treat trees as a crop, and they are planted and harvested in order to provide reusable resources (in this case, paper). So, printing responsibly actually helps produce more trees, which enhances the earth, and helps the environment overall. So go ahead, keep printing!

Myth #5: Recycling is too time consuming.

There are many things you can do that don’t take any extra time or effort. Printing only what you need when you need it is a great environmental philosophy to follow (and doing this will not only save you time but keep you more organized). If you do need to print documents, print them on recycled paper or paper that comes from managed forests – you’ll be helping trees grow! It’s all about changing the way you do things. You don’t have to sacrifice anything to go green, just remaining aware of your environmental impact is a great start.

Deciphering Recycling Numbers

Just because an item contains a recycling symbol doesn’t always mean it is safe and easy to recycle. The numbers that appear within those recycling symbols are very important to recognize and understand.


The single-digit numbers (1-7) contained within the recycling symbols are called “resin numbers”. Contrary to popular belief, these numbers do not identify how hard a material is to recycle; they simply are used to mark the specific type of plastic. Certain types of plastic are harder to recycle than others, and some should not even be put in your everyday recycling bin.


1              (PETE – Polyethylene, Terephthalate)
                Common uses: soda and water bottles, polyester fibers, food packaging.
                Safe to recycle, but not re-usable.          

2              (HDPE – High-density Polyethylene)
                Common uses: Recycling bins, various bottles such as milk, or motor oil.
                Safe to recycle.

3              (PVC – Polyvinyl Chloride)
                Common uses: toys, furnishings, plastic pipes, and non-food bottles.

4              (LDPE – Low-density Polyethylene)
                Common uses: Grocery or sandwich bags, plastic wrap, dispensing bottles.
                Safe to recycle.

5              (PP – Polypropylene)
                Common uses: Clothes, tubs, auto parts, Endura binders.
                Safe to recycle.

6              (PS – Polystyrene)
                Common uses: Foam cups or food trays, packing peanuts, video cases.

7              (Other)
                Various other applications such as bottles.


For the most part, items containing resin numbers of 1 or 2 are safe and can be placed in your recycling bin for curbside pick-up. Numbers 4 and 5 (while marked safe above) are not always picked up by waste management authorities. Different states and counties have varying guidelines, so it is always best to call your local waste authority to find out their policy before placing an item with a resin number of 4 or 5 in your curbside bin.

For the remaining resin numbers, they almost always cannot be placed in your curbside bin. To arrange pick-up for these, call your local waste management service for names of companies that can accomodate those plastic types.  Mixing un-recyclable products with recyclable products can cause more harm than good, and staying informed is key to doing the right thing. Happy sorting!

(To learn more about GBB’s eco-friendly Endura Line, visit

Get Down to Earth with International Paper

Thanks to International Paper’s new website, now anyone can access their acclaimed Down to EarthTM brochures. This informative series outlines various topics concerning green printing, and debunks many of the myths that have plagued the print industry for far too long.

For example, did you know using more paper actually promotes reforestation? And that by reducing paper usage, you are actually increasing the risk of replacement by development?

According to Teri Shanahan, IP’s VP of Commercial Printing, the reasoning behind creating this series was simple:

“Our customers and the public deserve to know the truth about paper products. They are bombarded with misleading and false information every day. Our goal is to provide facts so people can feel great about their environmentally friendly choices, especially paper.” (See International Paper’s full press release:

Get all the facts, plus tips and tricks by downloading the Down to Earth series here:

The current issues are:

Is it worth printing?
How does using paper lead to more trees?
How do labels and logos benefit you?
Are pixels greener than paper?
How big is your carbon footprint?
Is recycled paper the best you can do?
Where does your paper come from?

Conservation & Business: Recycled Vs. Never Used

From the various bubbles we have experienced comes an understanding there is a better way. In a society where “more is better,” we are facing a new paradigm. We can reduce consumption immensely by combining more meaningful usage of resources with more targeted communications. In doing so, we are able to achieve results formerly attainable only through mass production.

The careful selection of resources associated with On Demand Print Technology allows Green Books ‘N Binders to achieve greater results per piece, only producing:

• relevant material,
• when needed,
• for the quantity needed,
• only for users who will need it.

If you can do this for the same cost or less, and reduce the volume of printed material used, then you choose not to use!

The benefits in choosing not to use are truly endless. They include not only achieving business goals effectively, but also reducing usage and carbon footprint while at the same time lowering overall cost. This solution also reduces the energy needed to produce, distribute, and store all of the unnecessary printed material. Last, there is no need to require any further freight or energy to recycle what was over-printed, or became outdated as information changed. It is a vicious cycle, so put an end to it. Producing only what you need, when you need it, goes a long way.

Choosing not to use also reduces your cash tied into unnecessary inventory; your CFO will love you for it!