When companies start making changes towards a more eco-friendly business environment, paper is often one of the first things to go. When you think about printing on paper products, your mind might conjure up images of a devastated, clearcut forest. But the print industry is much greener than you think—and it is helping to prevent deforestation.

As I've said before, print marketing is far from dead. And while it's still an effective way to attract a wider range of customers, it also helps preserve the environment. Print marketing collateral is sustainable, recyclable, low on carbon emissions, and high on impressions.

Here's a look at the benefits of print marketing.

Print grows trees

More than half of the forests in the United States—or 55 million acres—are owned by private landowners, most of whom make a living off the land that they own. When private forestland is used in the production of paper, the landowner has an incentive to keep growing more trees and replenishing whatever was cut down. In fact, in many cases, more trees are planted than are harvested, often in areas where there were no trees before.

Without the print industry, many private forest owners could not turn a profit on their land as is and they would be forced to sell it to outside developers or to clear it away for other agricultural purposes. Moreover, planting trees reduces stormwater runoff, improves water quality, and helps lower carbon emissions—but the same can't be said for livestock and cash crops. Think of it this way: Print marketing is more eco-friendly than eating a hamburger.

Print is recyclable

People are getting so good about recycling paper that 65.1% of all paper products are now recycled. However, that only accounts for the post-consumer waste; many printers also recycle the scrap paper leftover from a print job into biofuel. In fact, paper used for printing in the US is composed of over 60% biofuels, which create a lower carbon footprint by requiring fewer fossil fuels and reduce waste.

Print is non-toxic

Many printers use soy-based ink, not only because it's non-toxic and low on volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which harm the environment, but also because soy-based ink produces a richer black tone than other inks. Printers are also likely to use water-based coatings and laminates, so you can have nice, glossy marketing media—without all the harsh toxins—that makes a tactical impression on your audience.

If recipients do throw away your collateral instead of recycling, no volatile chemicals are present to seep into the ground water, and everything will naturally biodegrade over time. Some eco-friendly products can even be composted and used to fertilize a home garden.

Print has low carbon emissions

The problem with going paperless is that electronic marketing requires the use of an electronic device. Because most electricity comes from sources like fossil fuels or coal, every impression you make with electronic marketing requires carbon output. That is why online ads actually have a larger carbon footprint than print ads.

Meanwhile, the most carbon output required for print is in the initial printing process, and much of that is created with recycled biofuel. Print's carbon footprint is made even smaller by the fact that print grows trees, which helps to offset the carbon output of the printing process.

Print lasts longer

Ever held onto a piece of print media because you liked the design, or because it was so well made you couldn't bear to part with it? People often cherish a creative print design—and the longer its lifespan, the more impressions it can make. That means a lower impact on the environment per each impression.

There's also a good chance your print design could be reused in some way. Old presentation folders can be useful to have around the house for organizing paper materials, while mailers might be reused in craft projects such as scrapbooking.

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Don't be afraid of print; it can ultimately benefit both your brand and the environment. However, you should still take the right steps to ensure your final product is as green as can be. Talk to your printer to see what your most eco-friendly options are, and encourage your customer base to recycle their discarded print media.

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image of Vladimir Gendelman

Vladimir Gendelman is founder and CEO of Company Folders Inc. He has spent over a decade learning the ins and outs of print marketing and specializes in helping businesses create quality marketing materials they can be proud of.

LinkedIn: Vladimir Gendelman