Is digital really greener than print?

  • Direct mail marketing
  • Environment
  • FSC paper
  • Trees
  • paper

We’re all now living in a digital society – and increasingly, that’s how we’re talking to each other too.

Every single day, 500 million tweets, 65 billion WhatsApp messages and 294 billion emails are sent, 4000 terabytes of data are generated on Facebook and 5 billion internet searches are made. [1] To keep all that digitainformation flowing, data centres all around the world are already devouring 2% of the global electricity supply - and that’s predicted to rise to 8% in the next ten years. [2]

Taken together, the cloud-based technologies that drive modern mass communications are also accounting for 2% of global emissions, which leaves a carbon footprint just as big as the airline industry. [3]

So far, there haven’t been any protests or marches or school strikes about the negative impact of digital communications on the environment.

Meanwhile, we’re all still getting emails that include a plea to avoid printing it out, to save the environment.

Paperless billing, newspapers going digital, social media, email – the message has been clear for years.

“Please consider the environment before printing this email.”
“Sign up for paperless billing, help the environment and save trees”
“Print is less environmentally-friendly and cost-effective than digital media”

The reality is that the pulp, print and paper industry accounts for 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions [4], which makes the sector one of the lowest of all industrial emitters – half the emissions generated by those data centres.

Well-planned demand for paper products from sustainable sources is vital in preventing land use change that results in deforestation, while the European Paper Industry has reduced the CO2 emissions per tonne of paper produced by 40% since 1990.

The paper industry now plants three times more trees than it cuts down each year, working hard to maintain and increase forest and woodlands around the world, with an area the equivalent to 1500 football pitches being planted every day.

For over two thousand years, people have communicated with each other on paper.

It’s still the most effective way to get a message from one person to another and it’s now the most environmentally sustainable way to do it, with much lower emissions and much higher recycling rates too.

It doesn’t have to be an “either/or” choice anyway – there should always be a place for both print and digital marketing in any campaign.

But when thinking about sustainability, environmental concerns and global greenhouse emissions, print is most definitely greener than digital.

For help or advice running direct mail marketing campaigns that work, get in touch with Pepper’s experienced account managers today.


[1] World Economic Forum:





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