Tag Archives: printing

Misreading Paper and Print

Sometimes in the rush of change people misread what they are seeing.  If there’s a mantra for the 21st Century it should be “take a closer look”.  While the floodgates of modern media have brought us an amazing array of information, images, and ideas, it has also brought with it an outrageous amount of mis-information.  Sound bites are less about news and more about noise.  The alarming absence of perspective both fascinating and frightening.

Paper is a good example.  A surprising number of people believe that not printing on paper saves trees.  While being a responsible user of natural resources is important, the reality is the paper and forest industry grow and harvest trees specifically for paper making.  These managed forests better serve the environment through carbon sequestration and cleansing of the water aquifer. Print creates a demand for paper, which in turn creates a demand for trees and managed forests, all the while holding development or other less environmentally friendly uses of land at bay.  It may seem counter-intutitve to you, but it’s true.

A surprising number of people believe the e-devices (smart phones, iPads, laptops, net books, etc) populating the modern world have little to no impact on the environment.  The fact that it’s against the law in 50 states and the District of Columbia to toss your cellphone in the trash ought to tell you something—lithium batteries are hazardous waste.  Unfettered access to the on-line world sucks up a huge amount of energy.  It requires bricks and mortar, air conditioning, electricity, computers and huge data centers operating 24/7/365.  The increasing use of fossil fuels including coal and petroleum to provide the electricity for data centers is growing 24% a year. “E” is not free.

While some take newspapers, magazines and book manufacturers to task for not quickly adopting new forms of content delivery such as e-readers, the argument that paper is used to create scarcity conveniently overlooks the fact that only 83% of US homes have computers, fewer still broadband access and that e-readers are largely out of financial reach of many families and especially children.  Paper, in the form of books, magazines, and newspapers are readily available free in public and school libraries, at reasonable prices on newsstands and if you’re not too fussy on seats in subways, bus stations and coffee shops.  Paper as a metaphor for scarcity or the means to slowing idea creation seems wildly outdated.  E-devices are here to stay, but that doesn’t mean paper or print must go.  If you love breathing fresh air and drinking clean water assuring a demand for print, paper and trees may be the best and most beneficial idea yet. It could likely turn out that print is the renewable way a responsible world communicates.

Print Grows Trees

“Print Grows Trees” is an educational campaign that uses facts to show that print on paper actually helps to grow trees and keep our forests from being sold for development. By connecting the dots between print and the private landowners who own almost 60 percent of U.S. woodlands, “Print Grows Trees” challenges the widely held belief that by using less paper, trees will be saved.  This post is reprinted with permission from Print Grows Trees 

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. With no financial incentive to grow trees, will these forests be converted permanently to other uses?

We live in a fragile and imperfect world where every decision made by governments, businesses or individuals affects the delicate balance of our planet. We cannot afford to make decisions without taking all the facts into consideration. Climate change is the most important issue facing our planet and the people on it. Our forests and the trees in them can, and must, play an integral role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

Deforestation is a complex and critical problem, with no easy answers. Printed paper is taking a lot of the blame in the public’s mind for this act. We are told to “Think before you print” in order to save trees and shown pictures of clear-cut forests that break our hearts and anger us.

But when we see a beautiful pasture with grazing cows, a field with new-mown hay or endless acres of corn, we think it is beautiful. The fact is that those beautiful scenes were once forests. Between 1850 and 1910, we lost about a third of our forests – about 190 million acres. When you fly across the Midwest, it’s the most evident. That’s where most of it was converted to agricultural land – when Americans cleared more forest than the total amount cleared in the previous 250 years of settlement. The fact is that when landowners have a financial incentive, they will grow more trees to replace the ones they cut down and even where there currently are no trees.

Cutting down trees is not sufficient in itself to cause deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines deforestation as “a non-temporary change of land use from forest to other land use or to the depletion of forest crown cover to less than 10 percent. Clear cuts (even with stump removal), if shortly followed by reforestation for forestry purposes, are not considered deforestation.”

What really matters is whether the forest is removed permanently, or reforested with new trees. By depressing the market for paper and wood products, we encourage landowners to “cut and run” – harvest their primary forestland for quick income and then sell the land instead of growing more trees. When this happens, much of the forested land gets converted to other uses, such as development or agriculture.

Plantation forestry (planting only one type of tree specifically as a crop for eventual harvest) is criticized, and although it may not fully compensate all of the biodiversity benefits of a primary forest, it is widely recognized that these trees will sequester carbon and can play a role in helping to address climate change.

What would be the ideal?
The ideal would be if growing trees was so profitable that landowners could not only afford to manage existing forestland with all its biodiversity in a sustainable manner, but they could also convert land that currently has no trees into forests grown specifically for harvesting as timber, much like Christmas tree farmers do. That would reduce the pressure on primary forests and add, rather than subtract, trees from our landscape.

What if we gave landowners a viable reason to plant more trees in places where there are none now?

Maybe we need to “Think before we DON’T print.

Mind Your p’s and q’s

My dear mother long since passed from this life used the shorthand “mind your p’s and q’s” to signal me and my siblings that we were to be on our best behavior.  Who knew some forty years later, I might come across the origins of the phrase while exploring the ever dynamic and future-focused printing and graphic communications industry.

A bit of history.  There was a time when type was set by hand.  The individual letters (wood and later lead) were taken from large wooden trays holding characters of the alphabet and placed into a composing stick.  Once all the characters comprising the needed message were in place, the type was locked up and a cast was made.  This is the basis of printing text invented by Gutenberg.  One of the challenges of the day was keeping the right alpha or numeric character in the right slot in the tray and having a discerning eye to know which character was which.  For example was the character a “p” or a “q”?   Hence minding your p’s and q’s became shorthand for being certain you were placing the correct characters in the correct place on the composing stick.

As leaders there is certain poetry to minding our p’s and q’s beyond being on our best behavior.  Minding the little problems, so they don’t become big ones.  Seeing the benefits of keeping precise order for some things like databases and perhaps dumping out the letter tray, to renew a process or program that isn’t working.  Choosing our words (and by extension our letters) carefully to truly be an inspiration or motivator to those around us looking for new direction.    It is easy to be cynical and even doubtful about our capacity to lead in circumstances not of our own making and seemingly beyond the capacities of society yet alone our organizations.  Yet like hand setting type one character at a time, setting our goals and objectives in character by character fashion we can find a pathway forward and a future for those who rely on our capacity to do so.  We have come a long way from those early days of craftsmanship.  There is certain artistry to the work of leadership not unlike that found in hand type and letterpress reproduction.  The uniquely rich feel and texture of embossed type on paper is a reminder not of a lost art but rather the richness of history and in our desire for differentiation a way to look at the future by touching our past.

It is said there’s another story about p’s and q’s referring to quarts and pints in British pubs, but I think I’ll leave that explanation to my friends at the Beer Institute for another time.