What Choice is Best?
You’ve probably noticed that, within the last few years, there’s become a bit of a paper shortage in the US – to say the least. Paper has been much harder to come by – and with that, many companies are looking into alternatives as well as ways to combat the shortage. Today, we’re discussing eco-friendly paper options that, in the long-run, may not only help with the shortage, but aid our environment to positively impact the world we live in.
Why is there a Paper Shortage?
Not too long ago, we posted a blog on the paper shortage. We discussed what’s causing it, what it means for marketers and their print projects, and how we can combat it. Overall, the shortage is due to the many changes in our world that have happened over the past few years. Between the pandemic, lumber scarcity, changes in supply and demand, and a decrease in transportation, several things made the perfect storm to decrease our paper resources. Learn more by reading the full blog, here.
Myth vs. Fact of Tree Waste
Before we go into some paper options and alternatives, we wanted to bring a few statistics from ChoosePrint.org to your attention:
- Myth: Paper is Made from Fresh-Cut Trees
- Reality: Paper is Made Primarily from “Waste” Products
- Myth: Print Leads to Deforestation
- Reality: Print Promotes Trees
- Myth: The Tree Population is Shrinking
- Reality: More Trees and Forests Exist Today Than 20 Years Ago
Questions? Dive a bit deeper into these, here.
Why Look Into Other Options?
Right now, the world “consumes around 300 million tons of paper each year.” So, although there are many trees being planted each year, and a lot more people are focusing on the environment, to keep up with what we’re taking away, we need to stay cognizant of our paper resources and usage. No matter what we’re doing to combat the negatives of paper creation, there are still forms and instances of paper creation (for example, deforestation of tropical forests) that take away wildlife habitat and emit greenhouse gases into the environment – so it’s important to be sure you’re not contributing to these negative practices. It’s estimated that “28,000 species may become extinct in the next quarter of a century from deforestation”, and that the burning and clearing of forests “accounts for about 20% of global annual greenhouse gas emissions.”
What are My Eco-Friendly Paper Options?
Although it may be your go-to and first guess, recycled paper may not be your only or best option. Eco friendly or “alternative” paper has a “smaller carbon footprint” and less overall impact on our environment.
Overall, there are currently two kinds of eco-friendly paper options. Recycled and curated.
Recycled is made from “post-consumer waste rather than wood pulp from freshly cut trees”. This reuse of post-consumer waste reduces deforestation and keeps habitats for wildlife, plus, “recycling roughly one ton of paper reduces greenhouse gas emissions by one ton of carbon equivalent, and saves around 7,000 gallons of water.” But – and this is important – be sure to look at the percentage (which manufacturers are required to include). Several companies will only use a small percentage of recycled materials, when we really want the percentage to be as close to 100 as possible.
Curated paper is from a managed forest system – the most popular and well-known of those being FSC Certified paper. FSC Certified is Forest Stewardship Council certified, which means it was created sustainably. If you look further into this, it primarily means that the paper was created with consideration of the protection of our environment as well as ethical treatment of production workers. “So far, the FSC has certified around 174 million hectares (429 million acres) of forests worldwide.” Additionally, other certifications exist, such as Preferred by Nature, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, and PEFC.
Lastly, you can use both. What do we mean? Curated paper that is made from (at least partially) recycled materials – the best of both worlds! Look into what makes the most sense and works best for your company. If you’re not sure, the best thing you can do is reach out to others, research, and simply try to do what’s best for our world.
Want to discuss your options with us? Looking for more information or resources? Contact Strata.
With a Combination of Direct & Digital Marketing (and the Right Partner)
Maybe you’ve heard about the paper shortage, or maybe you’ve experienced it first-hand. Either way, it’s something you should know about, as it’s seemingly becoming a bigger issue in our field day by day. But, before we sound all doom and gloom, we do have good news. Although it’s a current issue we’re facing, there are ways to combat it and work around it. In this blog, we’ll walk you through what exactly is causing the shortage, what it means for us (and you), and how we all can continue business as (almost) usual.
What’s Happening with the Paper Shortage?
So, what’s really going on? Well, there are many shortages going on right now – primarily due to all of the craziness that’s ensued over the past few years. The pandemic has been the primary factor in most shortages, from toilet paper to manufacturing products, and everything in between. Something else that’s suffering? Lumber, and in turn – you guessed it – paper.
Back in 2020, the demand for paper dropped by “up to 75% in some segments” due to drops in education and office space usage. Because of this, “paper mills reduced or curtailed production…which caused inventory to drop to levels which have not been seen previously.”
More recently, there’s been a “convergence of Canadian lumber tariffs, increase in demand for home remodeling and building of homes brought on by the pandemic, and hiccups in supply related to transportation.” From home projects to home purchases, we’re now using a lot of wood. More wood demand has called for changes in processes for these previously idle lumber suppliers, which has slowed production – and even worse, transporters impacted by Covid-19 risks has made for fewer available drivers to carry out shipments from mills and shipping ports.
Generally, one thing has led to another, causing a domino effect that’s triggered lumber prices to skyrocket, and has disrupted several industries.
What Does This Mean for Marketers & Print Projects
Yes, the paper shortage is concerning, but it doesn’t make print and direct mail marketing impossible or any less effective. With that said, don’t go overboard. Be aware of the materials you’re using and try to keep a close eye on the balance of supply and demand. While the lack of resources is a hurdle, the shortages are actually giving printers and marketers an opportunity to get creative with project execution by combining print with digital and trying new outreach possibilities.
How Can We Combat the Shortage?
There are several ways to work around the current hurdles we’re facing. The first? Using more digital technology wherever possible (and effective) – like QR codes, for example – to cut back on the paper needed to communicate a message or tell a story. Not only can QR codes and PURLs, or other tools help you use less paper, but they can help you more effectively track, monitor, and enhance your campaign. You can also try supplementing your multiple direct mail touches with other tools like digital ads and emails. A multichannel approach is always more impactful than a single channel, anyway.
Next, look into making your mailers, flyers, and other print marketing materials more cost effective by using a smaller paper weight, or stand out in the mail with a smaller but more uniquely shaped piece.
Lastly, look to work with a company with paper buying power and ample experience. They’ll be aware of the current issues, and will understand what’s best for your company’s marketing needs.
When it comes to shortages of any kind, remember to be patient and plan ahead. The paper shortage most likely won’t be around forever, but the more flexible you can be, the more you can mitigate the issue. After reading this, we hope you’re feeling a bit more knowledgeable of the current shortage as well as what you can do to combat it. If you’re interested in learning more about how Strata’s working through the shortage with our client (and on our personal projects), or are looking to work with us on your next multichannel marketing campaign, feel free to reach out.