Loving Trees to Death: The Sustainability Message is Getting Through

Results from a new survey, undertaken this past summer by global polling firm Toluna Inc., shows that overall, consumers have a more favorable attitude about the use of print on paper versus the environmental impact of digital media.

We’re pleased to see this, but not terribly surprised. Consumers, after all, have demonstrated skepticism over greenwashing claims by brands encouraging them to switch to digital billing. And as the FTC cracked down on the misleading messaging, more large companies dropped the anti-paper claims.

The message is getting through loud and clear: Digital consumption has a huge carbon footprint and going paperless does not, in truth, save forests.

“19% more respondents agreed that print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate (91% in 2016 vs 72% in 2013).”

Meanwhile, the study also confirmed that consumers just prefer ink on paper, for a variety of reasons.

“In general, there was a preference for print on paper across all age groups, likely indicating a more fundamental and more human way that people react to the physicality of print on paper,” writes Phil Riebel in PI World. “Many prefer paper-based communications to digital options for a variety of reasons including ease of reading, as a reminder to take action, and a lack of internet access. These findings may also be partially explained by neuroscientific studies which have shown that our brains have a much more emotional and meaningful connection when we read on paper versus screens.”

Interestingly, younger respondents (18-24 years old) were the least aware of the net positive impact of sustainable forestry on the environment; we suspect that as they become better informed citizens — and the industry continues to promote the science behind the debate — they’ll back away from the tree hugging mentality that is, ironically, killing trees.