Greener Than Its Reputation: How Sustainable Print Products Really Are

We Clarify the Myths and Clichés

Paper has been the most popular medium of communication for 2,000 years. And still today in the age of digitalisation. No other medium is as enduring and credible, especially today, in times of fake news and fast-moving Twitter posts.

But when it comes to print and paper, prejudices and myths also repeatedly cause printed media to be labelled as “unsustainable” or “wasting resources”. One third of consumers, for example, believe that paper is bad for the environment. Yet the European paper industry, of all industries, is a world leader when it comes to sustainable products, renewable energy and recycling rates.

The non-profit organisation Two Sides has set itself the task of creating a better understanding of the environmental footprint of print and paper, and thus to clarify the myths and clichés of the industry.

Myth 1: European forests are shrinking


  1. Between 2005 and 2015, European forests grew by 44,000 square kilometres – an area larger than Switzerland and covering over 1,500 football pitches every day!
    FAO data, 2005-2015
  2. 50% of the world’s wood is harvested for energy production, and over 30% is used in other industries, such as architecture and furniture making. There are a number of other uses, but only about 13 % is used for paper.
    Derived from FAOSTAT, 2018
  3. More than 60 % of forests in the EU are certified, mostly under the FSC or PEFC or both. The share of certified forests in Europe is significant compared to the world as a whole, as only 12% of the world’s forest area is certified.
    EEA, European Forest Ecosystems – Status and Trends, 2016.
  4. Today, forests and other wooded land in the EU amount to around 180 million hectares, making Europe one of the most forested regions in the world, accounting for more than 42% of the total forest area.
    EEA, Landscapes in Transition, 2017

Myth 2: Paper is bad for the environment


  1. Paper is based on wood, a fully renewable and sustainable resource.
  2. Forest certification ensures that the wood comes from sustainably managed forests.
  3. Sustainable wood, pulp and paper production supports a healthy forest.
  4. 71% of the wood and 83% of the pulp purchased by the European pulp and paper industry is FSC® or PEFCTM certified.
  5. 91% of production capacity is certified or registered to the internationally recognised environmental management standards ISO 14001 and EMAS.

Myth 3: Electronic communication is more environmentally friendly than paper-based communication


  1. The environmental impact of the growing information and communication industry cannot simply be ignored. It now accounts for about 2.5 – 3 % of global emissions, and this is expected to increase to 14 % by 2040.
  2. The problem of electronic waste is colossal, and getting worse. In 2016 alone, 44.7 million tonnes of electronic waste was generated globally, including 435 thousand tonnes of mobile phones, which would give you enough material to rebuild the Empire State Buildung.
    Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2018

Myth 4: Digital is always the preferred means of communication


  1. Globally, consumers prefer print versions of books (72%), magazines (72%) and newspapers/news (55%) over digital options, and said they find reading more enjoyable than on screen.
  2. 65% of consumers believe they gain deeper insights of what they read when they read print media. Compared to 49% who say the same about online news sources. In addition, consumers trust news from print newspapers more (51%) than those posted on social media (24%).
  3. Many consumers do not pay attention to online advertising (68%) and 57% do their best to avoid it. 46% would be more likely to make a purchase decision based on a print ad rather than an online ad.

About Two Sides

Two Sides is a non-profit, global initiative to promote the unique, sustainable and attractive qualities of print, paper and paper packaging. Two Sides members cover the entire print, paper and packaging value chain, including: forestry, pulp, paper, packaging, inks and chemicals, converting, publishing, printing, envelopes and postal operators. For more information, visit

Source: Two Sides


Marie Hennschen