One of my biggest pet peeves is reading a bill from “large company” (bank, utility, etc.) that claims:
e-billing is better for the environment.
And this peeve ranks just under it; seeing the following in an email signature:
Please consider the environment before printing this email.
The implication is that printing paper kills trees, ergo is bad for our environment. Does virgin paper come (in large part) from tree pulp? Yes it does. But as with all things, the real truth is more complicated than simple one-dimensional judgements.
Consider the following truths:
- paper and forestry are among the most sustainable industries in existence (page 11)
- reducing the use of paper could actually damage the environment. If a plot of land is currently a “tree farm” selling it’s harvest to paper mills, and the paper mills stop buying the harvest due to a dramatic decrease in the use of paper, that plot of land could easily be repurposed to a housing or industrial project, losing the environmental benefit of the forest.
- when comparing a 30 minute reading time, the environmental impact of reading a newspaper on a tablet is about the same as reading a paper newspaper
- according to Greenpeace, e-waste is increasing at 3-5% a year, about 3 times faster than the general waste stream
My conclusion IS NOT that you shouldn’t pay your bills online, or that you should always print your emails for reading. It is important to debunk the myth that electronic communication is environmentally superior to printed paper communication. I believe you should do what works best for you, because the environmental impact is likely negligible.