We Are Greener Than You Think

I don’t know if it is media caused, but the whole country seems to be in the grip of Chicken Little syndrome. We think the sky is falling just because someone else tells us it is. If you listen to the “experts” they’d have you believe that we are on the doorstep of doom and destruction. Greenhouse gasses, global warming, polluted water and air, my goodness you’d think we had “one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel”, as my former scoutmaster used to say.

In the 70’s there was a hew and cry about cutting down trees and the paper industry responded by creating recycled paper. It was truly u-g-l-y and didn’t print worth a da_ n, but it was environmentally friendly. Whew. Since then the paper mills have been refining their techniques. There are mills that recycle everything. What they can’t use in the product, they recycle to produce energy to run the mill. No waste. You’d be hard pressed to find a paper stock now that doesn’t contain some percentage of recycled fiber, and the days of ugly, unprintable paper are gone. Some of the most beautiful sheets around are recycled.

But what about the trees? Aren’t we destroying forests for toilet tissue and newspapers? No, we aren’t. Again, the people spoke, the government listened, and the industry responded. Today, according to some, we have more forested acres in the United States than existed in colonial times.  That may or may not be true, but we have not seen wholesale devastation of our forests either. There are plenty of trees out there, and when harvested for lumber or paper the land is replanted with new trees. Take a drive to the Pacific Northwest and notice the many lumber farms. Now we can grow trees like we grow corn and harvest them without bulldozing a mountainside.

I’ve mentioned twice now how industries change direction to meet the wants and needs of the public, do you doubt that it is true? Companies exist to serve the people. If the people don’t buy their products or services, they go out of business. Kaput. Finis. All change is hard. Companies are unwilling to make changes unless they can see that it will pay off. Going green has been paying off and so you will continue to see more innovations. I’m certain of it.

I’ve focused mainly on paper, but printing presses have changed also. Thirty years ago heat-set web presses burned off the ink solvents in drying ovens and released them into the air. I didn’t know that in addition to stinking up my clothes, it was also fouling my lungs. Now, by law, these presses come equipped with scrubbers that clean and vent the air to the outside.

Ink has changed as well. 100% Petroleum based inks are rare. Today inks are created with soy and petroleum.

So what am I getting at? The sky is not falling. The printing business is environmentally aware, and there will be trees to climb, and water to swim in for innumberable generations to come. Don’t get in an uproar because we truly are greeener than you think.

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