In the last post, I covered the trend of printers and envelope companies “going green” in order to win approval from customers and prospects. Obviously this has been a theme in the marketing and PR strategies of many companies for more than a generation.
While some individuals and the businesses they own and run act out of sincere conviction in this regard, it’s clear that for many if not most, it’s just a self-serving attempt to win business. For example, how many banks and credit card companies send out paper bills with a message urging you to “save a tree” by switching to on-line transactions? What they are not saying is that by doing so, they are saving money on paper, envelopes, printing, mailing and postage. Now any businessperson worth his salary is always going to look for ways to cut costs while maintaining service levels. However, to wrap this in the fuzzy blanket of concern for the environment is a bit too much for this observer.
One might say that this type of thing is relatively harmless. Why not use popular, "apple-pie" rhetoric for our short-term benefit? Businesses tend to be risk-averse. Controversy is to be avoided if at all possible. It’s bad for a business to alienate a segment of its market so the conventional thinking goes. Better to just go along and not stick out. However, for those of us who convert envelopes, print envelopes and use paper as an integral part of our business, the larger question is: by accepting the premises of the environmental movement, are we doing ourselves more harm than good in the long term?
Let’s look at that “save a tree” argument a little more carefully. Our environmental brethren have very skillfully propagated the idea that using paper in large amounts is a bad thing because lots of trees get cut down in the process. Yet if there are companies whose product is paper, and paper comes from wood pulp which comes from trees, then it’s obvious that these companies will maintain the largest and most productive forests they can in order to keep their businesses profitable. The more paper is consumed, the more trees will be needed to satisfy the demand. Saving a tree by not consuming paper is like "saving" a tomato by not eating them in your salad.
This applies to recycling paper as well. Elite Envelope recycles hundreds of tons of paper per year (maybe more - haven’t actually kept track) because there is a demand for the paper and we get paid for the waste. I have no philosophical objection to recycling paper and it most likely saves some landfill space but it’s also true that if we recycled less paper, there would be even more trees planted to fill that demand.
By "going along" with the line of thinking that says, in effect, what we do for a living is harmful to the environment, are we not lending credence to this false premise and thus hastening our own demise?
In next week’s blog, I’ll delve further into these issues. As always, I welcome your comments!