Save Trees. Print More!

Topics: Print, Training

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treefarmThis is absolutely the most controversial statement that we’ve made all year, but it’s the honest truth. Sure, we print conference books, so why believe us?

You know Omnipress is about being green and providing green solutions for conference materials, so why would we say something so blasphemous?

I know this sounds contradicting, but the economics behind this is true.

Printing Saves Trees

Consider this economic cycle. Most of the paper used for printing for U.S.-based associations comes from North American forests. If we print less, we place less value on paper. Less paper being needed translates into paper companies selling their forested acreage to the highest bidder, as this is the best chance for revenue. This, in turn, means they plant fewer trees, leaving the land to just sit there “idle” or be sold to developers.

Printing Increases Demand for Paper

Using paper for printing raises the demand for paper, which means the paper companies plant more trees and keep land dedicated to managed forests.

How it works: It takes 5-6 years to grow a tree that is used for paper. Consider a forested plot of land divided into 6 segments. Year 1, they log segment 1 and replant. Year 2, they log segment 2 and replant. This goes on for 6 years and we’re back to segment 1. That is sustainable forestry.

So it’s not like trees are being clear cut and nothing is replacing them (as is the case in some parts of the world where the forests get clear cut for soybeans, sugar cane and cattle farms). Most mills have sustainable forestry practices ensuring they are replanting more trees because this is their business. Trees are their crop!

Edward L. Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard University states in an Boston Globe article titled, “A road map for environmentalism“:

“The trees used by paper mills are a renewable resource. When people use more paper, suppliers plant more trees. If we want bigger commercial forests, then we should use more paper not less. Our policies should directly protect important wildlife habitats, not try to reduce our demand for paper.”

Can Conference Printing Save Trees?

As for conferences and meetings, printing educational materials such as proceedings books, workbooks or handouts isn’t wiping out our trees. In fact, it’s probably saving trees.

Looking at the purpose of your meeting. If the use of printed materials is going to better educate a doctor, engineer, social worker or child care provider, so be it. Figure out a way to cover the printing cost because, in the end, you’ll have happier, more educated attendees and more demand for paper–and more land for trees.

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December 19th, 2008Tim Schoonenberg says:

I really enjoyed this post. I think many of the most sustainable processes may be counterintuitive and require a lot more common sense than shallow marketing hype.


March 23rd, 2010I like trees! says:

Print on paper gives landowners a reason to grow trees.

More than half of all U.S. forestland is owned privately.

Private landowners decide the fate of these forests.

Many require an income from their land, and when a working forest cannot make money, the land is often put to another use.

Research shows that 55 million acres of private U.S. forests will be sold or transferred in the next five years.

PS – Should we stop eating vegetables to save the carrots? Trees are a renewable source. Ever wonder what is powering all those web servers?

Twitter: chrisuschan


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