Two Sides North America Responds to the Wall Street Journal

On June 15, the Wall Street Journal published an article in its online edition titled One Change Could Help U.S. Drugmakers Save 11 Million Trees a Year, and republished the same article on June 16 in its print edition under the headline Bill Would Let Drugmakers Stop Printing Long Pamphlets. Two Sides North America responded with the letter below. The Journal may or may not publish the letter, but we thought it important to go on the record with our concerns.
Cost Cutting Cloaked in Greenwashing
Even if it were true that the pharmaceutical industry could “save 11 million trees a year,” by switching from paper to electronic prescription information for doctors and pharmacists, such claims of environmental superiority are meaningless, if not deceptive, because they do not consider the vast and growing environmental footprint of digital communications.

The environmental impact of digital communication is often underestimated because of the “invisible” nature of the infrastructure that supports it. Nowhere does your article mention the environmentally invasive mining and drilling required to extract finite raw materials (iron, copper, rare earths, petroleum for plastics, etc.) necessary to manufacture electronic devices and the massive server farms that support them, the predominance of greenhouse-gas emitting fossil fuel energy used to power them, the massive amounts of water consumed to cool data centers, and that only 15% of U.S. electronic waste gets recycled.

Compare this to paper, which is in fact is one of the few products on earth that has a truly sustainable, circular life cycle. U.S. manufactured paper is made from an infinitely renewable resource – trees that are purpose-grown, harvested and regrown in sustainably managed forests – in a process that uses a lot of water but consumes very little of it, and is powered mostly (64% on average) by renewable bioenergy. And with a recovery rate of 68%, paper is recycled more than any other material in the U.S. municipal solid waste stream.

Using unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims as a means to a digital-only end is greenwashing that completely ignores the documented environmental impacts of digital communication and threatens the livelihoods of millions of workers across the U.S. print, paper and forest products value chain.

Kathi Rowzie, President
Two Sides North America
Dayton, Ohio

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