Americans Still Prefer Print and Paper Communications

According to a recent survey commissioned by Two Sides, a non-profit organization created to promote the responsible production, use and sustainability of print and paper, Americans have declared their preference for paper-based media in a digital world.  In brief:

  • 70% of Americans, including 69% of 18- to 24-year-olds, state they “prefer to read print and paper communications than reading off a screen.”
  • Most of those surveyed (68%) believe that paper records are more sustainable than electronic record storage.
  • The majority of respondents (67%) say paper is more pleasant to handle and touch than other media.

But survey results also show that many Americans still have misconceptions about the environmental impacts of print and paper.

“Even though most Americans still prefer print over electronic communications, they also have misconceptions about the effects of paper-based communications on the environment,” says Two Sides President Phil Riebel.  “Authoritative sources like the U.S. Forest Service, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and others report that the amount of forestland in the United States has remained nearly the same over the last century at about 750 million acres, and the major cause of global deforestation is not papermaking, but the conversion of tropical rainforests to agricultural land.”

While 96% of survey respondents said they believe recyclability is a sign of environmentally responsible products, most significantly underestimated the amount of U.S. paper that’s actually recycled each year.   “Most people think the U.S. paper recycling rate is between 20 and 40 percent,” Riebel explains, “but American Forest and Paper Association data show that more than 63 percent of all paper used in the United States in 2010 was recycled.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that’s more than any other commodity, including plastics, glass and metals. The industry has set a goal to exceed 70 percent of all paper recovered for recycling by 2020.”

The survey also finds that more than half respondents believe that electronic communications are a more environmentally friendly way to read books, magazines and mail.  “The fact is that both electronic and paper-based communications have an environmental footprint, and making both smaller is the right environmental choice,” Riebel says.


About: Two Sides commissioned Ipsos, a global market research company, to conduct a multi-country survey in September 2011.  U.S. results included 500 respondents classified by age and gender.

Source: Market Wire, Research Shows Americans Still Prefer Print and Paper Communications, but Misconceptions About Environmental Sustainability Remain, January 18, 2012.

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