Select Comments: Do You Believe Print is More or Less Sustainable Than Digital/Electronic Delivery?

Print and digital both have their best applications, and the decision of which to use for what purpose may change from situation to situation. I do not believe one or the other is more or less sustainable. The paper industry is very conscious of their impact on the environment and have taken measures toward sustainability. Digital design is wholly device dependent. Those devices have their own impact on the ecosystem.

Print is more sustainable, based on the recyclability and compostability of paper, as well as the paper industry’s dedication to planting trees. The tech industry isn’t as dedicated to using sustainably sourced or recyclable materials, and we all know devices don’t last as long as we’d like.

Both approaches are sustainable for clients: we can make responsible paper recommendations, choose eco-minded and practicing print vendors, etc. Digital campaigns can cost just as much as a printed campaign, depending on social media push, ad placement, etc. What is NOT sustainable is asking designers to be experts in both areas.

I know that paper companies are doing a much-improved job of planting/replacing trees and producing paper cleanly. Not sure about electronic media, the impact on the climate is much more hidden.

Paper is more sustainable, renewable. We recommend creative ways to reduce our use of paper — for example making a brochure fewer pages and including QR codes that link to more robust information on a company’s website.

It’s a question of sustainability versus health and sanity. While I’m happy to get digital receipts from the grocery store or e-bills from my doctor, when it comes to books or information from organizations I support, I love to have something I can hold in my hand, feel, and read away from technology. Plus getting mail is enjoyable! A trip to the mailbox breaks up the routine of the day. There are ways to eliminate paper, but not at the cost of our own pleasure and sanity.

Sustainability impacts every decision I make in our studio and home. Print is sustainable if done correctly. If we didn’t use paper, paper companies wouldn’t be planting forests of trees to make the paper. They would be tearing that forest out to put in a factory or office. Balance is key here … awareness is key here. Every time I see someone say ‘don’t print out this email it makes me wonder if they even know why really. Digital/online/electronic design has its place, but can we recycle all the digital screens and hardware that it takes to make them visible to consumers? Maybe we are feeling digital is sustainable now, but is it in 5+ years after the hardware becomes extinct?

It can be expensive to sustain paper. However, we have been working on this for a while. I hope that we continue to innovate ways to still be able to print with zero waste. How many ways can we reuse what we create? Look at what the world has learned in the last 10-20 years. We adapt faster now because we value the next best thing. Let’s hope saving the world’s climate is the next best thing. We MUST do better. ALL of us.

There are several mills that run sustainable forest initiatives. With our massive global paper shortage currently going on, I hope more local, smaller scale mills will make a comeback. A well-managed, treed acreage provides an environment for wildlife, and the cyclical nature of planting/growing/cutting provides for a cleaner undergrowth with less duff, making less fuel for wildfires that may come through.

Paper is expensive but no more so than electricity usage. Some clients require sustainability while others are less concerned about it than with cost. The decision is up to the client.

Digital is more sustainable but there are more and more options out there to sustainably print pieces. There are many things that factor into a print piece being ‘green’ such as printing plates, software, ink, paper, and shipping. Clients are looking to be more sustainable as are we.

I would say it is an even trade off. People forget the amount of energy and fossil fuels required to maintain a healthy electronic infrastructure.

Sustainability is a big factor. Print is not inherently more or less sustainable; it depends on the goal. Print is not dead; we must determine on a project-by-project basis what media adds the most value for the least impact.

Paper is more sustainable, renewable. We recommend creative ways to reduce our use of paper – for example making a brochure fewer pages and including QR codes that link to more robust information on a company’s website

They probably likely cancel each other out as far as energy use. A server that needs fuel and energy to run, or a tree that can be regrown for paper. Sustainability and choosing a recycled paper affect my decision on papers if available from that paper vendor.

Paper will continue to be used, but on a more limited basis than traditionally has been as environmental concerns weigh heavily on people, as well as the cost increases of paper itself. The ephemera of so much printed work can be seen as wasteful, future printed work will be done so selectively for more targeted audiences.

Paper is less sustainable – unless we have some major energy issue where computers no longer work. Society is changed. People appear to be silo-ing themselves still, even thought the pandemic seems to have waned and folks are transitioning out of mask wearing behavior.

With supply chain issues, print is becoming challenging. We are currently printing our university magazine and had to go with a much thinner stock because we could not get the paper we wanted. This was a huge disappointment. We do think about sustainability when recommending how clients can best reach their audiences. Cost is also a factor.

Paper is the most renewable source there is. The footprint of digital use is much higher than the use of paper.

Paper and ink are currently entwined in limitations in supply and delivery. Those complications are not a sustainability issue. Paper and ink are still available and should be available for production. But, in a weird twist of current events, one might believe online or digital is more sustainable. To be fair, they could be interpreted as being equal.

Perception is everything: Historically, consumers see glossy printed pieces as wasteful, even if the printing methods and paper choices are eco-conscious. This is where digital tends to be perceived as more sustainable, regardless of the energy required to power the computers, billboards, websites, etc. digital pieces live on. Clients will take into account their target’s perceptions, even if those perceptions run counter to facts.

More data is needed to truly understand how beneficial digital media is. Is that 100-foot screen using up hours of electricity more sustainable than the mailer responsibly sources on renewable material? It’s all about getting as close as carbon neutral or achieve carbon negative!

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