Is E-Marketing Environmentally Friendly? Think Again.

I often hear the “paper is bad for the environment” perspective here in Silicon Valley, home of our West Coast office.   However, the more relevant question might be, “Compared to what?”

Unless I missed the memo, sales and marketing efforts still exist for a reason. Clearly these initiatives have migrated to other forms along with print – email blasts, social media, mobile, etc. And that’s how I arrived at the premise that paper is quite good for the environment compared with electronic data centers that power e-marketing.

Here are some startling environmental statistics:

  • The paper-based industry is one of the biggest users of renewable, low-carbon energy in the world – 60% of the energy used to make paper in the United States comes from carbon-neutral renewable resources. Paper manufacturers also use combined heat and power (CHP) generation systems, which are 80-90% efficient.
  • Electronic data centers powering the Internet use more than 90% fossil fuels purchased off the grid, and these conventional power-generation systems are only 45-60% efficient.
  • The paper-based industry uses only half the energy that electronic data centers do.
  • The consumption rate for data centers in the United States alone doubles every six years…and they will be using four times the energy of the paper industry in no time at all.
  • The USDA Forest Service claims that four-million trees are planted daily in the United States. The wood and paper industries plant more than 25% of these. Does the electronic data center industry plant any trees? I’d love to see that data.

So whatever reasons you might have to “go paperless,” environmental concerns should not be one of them.  The printed materials you send in a sales kit, include in a press kit folder or send in a mailer may be more valuable and memorable than all of the energy your customers will consume online to find the same information on your website.

-Sari McConnell at


About Sari McConnell

Sari oversees strategic partnership opportunities and heads up Conformer’s San Francisco office. Sari was formerly the managing director of a venture-backed music and multimedia agency in San Francisco and New York. She began her career in brand management at Hallmark Cards, Clorox, and LeapFrog. Sari is an appointed member of the Bay Area Regional Council of Northwestern University and is an active volunteer at her children’s schools. She received her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and her B.A. from Northwestern University as well.
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