Let's remember that paper is made from wood, a sustainable and renewable product that is an increasingly valuable resource for the creation of a vast range of sustainable products. Responsibly managed forests are a critical resource that benefit the environment and also provide wood and wood by-products that are now seen as a preferred material as society tries to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. It takes energy to produce paper but most of it is renewable and, as an example, over 65% of the energy used to make pulp and paper in the US, and 54% in Europe, originates from renewable biomass (7, 8).
So, before encouraging people to go paperless, and particularly inferring that electronic services are better for the environment, Google and others need to examine their own impacts and perhaps might reflect that, on balance, print and paper can be a sustainable way to communicate.
In reality we live in an increasingly digital world and electronic and paper based communication coexist. Each has environmental impacts and it would be helpful, and more honest with consumers, if organisations would not try to differentiate their products and services on the basis of spurious and unattributed environmental claims. Such Greenwash marketing is not only damaging to corporate reputations but also increasingly, we consider, in flagrant disregard of advertising standards such as those of the U.S Federal Trade Commission and DEFRA (UK) (9, 10).
We hope that Google reconsiders its participation in this campaign.
Martyn Eustace, Director, Two Sides UK
Phil Riebel, President, Two Sides U.S., Inc.
(1) Google/Associated Press, Sep 8, 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_platform
(2) Greenpeace, The e-waste problem. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/toxics/electronics/the-e-waste-problem/
(3) Energy Use of Print vs. Electronic Media, Tejo Pydipati October 24, 2010. http://www.twosides.info:8080/content/rsPDF_288.pdf
(4) The Cloud Factories, Power, Pollution and the Internet. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/technology/data-centers-waste-vast-amounts-of-energy-belying-industry-image.html?_r=1&,
(5) Society of American Foresters, 2007. http://www.twosides.info/Content/rsPDF_86.pdf
(6) USDA Forest Service, 2010. http://www.twosides.info/Content/rsPDF_84.pdf
(7) 2012 AF&PA Sustainability Report. http://www.twosides.info:8080/content/rsPDF_255.pdf
(9) U.S. Federal Trade Commission, Environmental Claims - Summary of the Green Guides. http://www.twosides.info:8080/content/rsPDF_267.pdf
(10) DEFRA's Quick Guide to Making a Good Environmental Claim, UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs