We recently came across a US industry association representing 350 printers on the midAtlantic coast, campaigning with much the same goals as the Verdigris project. The Printing & Graphics Association MidAtlantic (PGAMA) “Print Saves Trees” campaign takes as its starting point the debunking of the idea that people shouldn’t print because printing leads to environmental damage.
Take the underlying assumption in those messages at the end of emails saying “Please consider the environment before printing this email ”. In the graphic arts we should all know this is a silly message, but it isn’t easy to explain why without getting bogged down in intricacies of sustainability and forestry. Instead the PGAMA explains a forest owners commercial alternatives to growing forests, which is to cut down the trees and sell the land for something else. The “Print Saves Trees” campaign explains how print is just one of the many reasons forest owners have for growing trees. And as we all know trees are pretty much the best option we have for cleaning up the excess CO2 in our atmosphere. We need any possible excuse for growing them so printing should really be at the top of the environmental messaging list.
The most important point about the PGAMA’s campaign is that it reminds people of the alternatives to commercially grown forests. Without a reason to replant trees, landowners might be tempted to sell their land for other uses, such as agriculture or raising cows and sheep or for development. This is the reason for the loss of so much forest in Europe and America over the last couple of centuries, but the economic realities of the Industrial Revolution no longer obtain. We can do better because hindsight shows us where we have been and informs our future directions.
Where we have been was about feeding and housing people and building economies. This argument still has weight in developing countries but deforestation is not the answer because taking care of the planet’s natural resources is part of a global collective future. Even APP, a notorious environmental vandal, accepts the need to cease deforestation of Indonesia’s natural forests in the interests of Indonesia, broader conservation and of course APP’s commercial future.
For printers and print buyers the PGAMA initiative is encouraging as well as being straightforward and easy to grasp. Simple, basic and honest ideas that are about the pragmatics of what makes print the only truly sustainable medium are the best way to educate. We can easily forget that as we inadvertently blind folk with environmental complexities that are often elitist. We hope other printing industry associations should take a closer look at the PGAMA ideas and consider adapting them for their region. Check out the campaign: http://www.printgrowstrees.org/facts.html
– Laurel Brunner
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