Although there’s no substitute for a handwritten note or the smell of a hardcover book, there’s no denying that we live in a digital age. Not only are hard copies of most documents completely unnecessary, they’re also costly and harmful to the planet. Some 336,000,000 sheets of paper are wasted every day in the United States–the equivalent of more than 40,000 trees a day.
It makes sense that technology companies would be supportive of the shift to a paperless lifestyle, after all they create the devices–laptops, tablets, and e-readers–that have replaced the printed page. Earlier this month, Toshiba America Business Solutions (TABS) launched announced a “National No Print Day” campaign to reduce unnecessary office paper waste. Apparently some paper and printing supply companies took offense to the idea that they might not be necessary, and raised a ruckus until Toshiba agreed to cancel the campaign.
Upon learning of the campaign, Printing Industries of America, a Sewickley-based trade association, organized a protest. The group claimed “the campaign was offensive to printing industry workers and unfairly implicated print as environmentally hazardous. The industry has shrunk in recent years due to economic shifts and the increased use of digital communication” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Unfairly? Sometimes the truth hurts, I guess. According to the EPA, about 71 million tons of paper and paperboard are used every year in the U.S. Despite our best efforts, the EPA also estimates that only about 55 percent of this paper makes it into the recycling bin. No matter how you look at it, that means millions of tons of paper are being wasted in this country. Paper is made from trees, so this also translates into a lot of wasted trees–even if they are specifically grown for paper making, and are replanted. Mature, living trees store carbon, emit oxygen, and prevent soil erosion–all things the environment needs more than printed newspapers.
Despite these obvious facts, Toshiba couldn’t handle the pressure. They canceled the campaign just two weeks after announcing it. “The intent was to raise awareness of wasteful office printing practices and to provide simple tips and tools to reduce it,” Bill Melo — vice president of marketing, services and solutions at Toshiba America Business Solutions — said in a written statement issued this week. ”The provocative name and message unfortunately led to a misconception of the campaign goals by the paper and print industries, and for that we apologize.”
If Toshiba re-launches its campaign, the new approach “will explicitly explain that this in no way references the legitimate commercial printing industry and its importance to the American economy,” Makin wrote.