Myth Busting 101: The Paper vs. Trees Debate

columbiaUBefore you throw around those old ideas about paper and the environment, get your facts right–especially if you’re writing for a major newspaper.

I can understand the average non-industry person having some preconceived (even if they are wrong) attitudes about paper and the environment. But when this idea is reported almost as a fact in a major newspaper, it calls into question journalistic integrity.

InkOnDaPaper did a great job of rebutting a recent article in USA Today titled “Paper may be bad for trees, but it’s good for people.

The piece in question was written by Columbia University assistant professor Tal Gross, and provided some great information on the benefits of paper when it comes to learning.

As InkOnDaPaper summarized:

  • Students that read on paper versus screens score better in comprehension tests.
  • Those that take notes on paper versus a laptop learn more from lectures.
  • Those that doodle on paper (versus sitting still) while listening to a recording performed better in memory tests.

So why did Professor Gross (or his editors, to be fair) feel the need to start out with a strangely incorrect headline? And why toss in some unsubstantiated claims as if they were fact?

As InkOnDaPaper points out (and as we’ve talked about here before), the paper industry works hand in hand with sustainable forestry in ways that not only conserve our natural resources, but actually enhance the health of our forests.

The greenwashing campaigns of recent years have given consumers a too-easy way to think of digital as the environmentally-friendly alternative. Going digital is not necessarily going to save the earth (think of all the electricity, electronic components etc. that go into the digital footprint); and going paperless won’t save the forests. Healthy forests come from sustainable harvesting, which the paper industry helps to drive.

Anyway, kudos to Professor Gross for the good information on print and learning; and kudos to InkOnDaPaper for continuing our education…and taking Professor Gross to school on this particular topic.