Pay the freight!

I recently made the decision to, whenever possible, use eco-friendly business supplies.

Yesterday I was ordering business cards and researching bookmarks for my book tour as giveaways. I found a few ‘green printers’ such as Green Printer Online. They offer business and promotional cards that are made responsibly from recycled paper, using safe inks.

Here’s the catch: They cost about 100-200% more than traditional (irresponsible) business and promotional cards.

I checked around, and this is true for all providers of eco-friendly printing services. When I was ordering T Shirts for the tour, I made the same price discovery when looking for organic shirts with soy ink. I found a great one, TSDesigns, but they too were about 100% more expensive than their chemically based rivals.

What to do? Pay the freight! By this, I mean that I should pay the extra costs to ‘do the right thing’. While their costs may decline over time as the market for responsible products grows, the simple truth is that is costs more money to make products that are sustainable. Using virgin paper and industrial inks is cheaper. Non-organic cotton is cheaper. Why? Because their prices don’t reflect the true cost of the product over the long haul.

When a company uses virgin paper, they are provisioning the long term costs of deforestation and global warming to governments, communities and future generations. Think about it. For decades cigarette companies were able to push off the long term costs of their product (health care, for example) to local, state and federal agencies as well as families. When they finally lost a class action law suit, they finally paid some of the external costs of their product. In NYC, there is a steep cigarette tax in place to fix this. If ciggs were actually priced based on their true cost to all of us, they’d be $30 a pack!

So, when you think about your printing needs, bite the bullet and pay more to do good. Later, if virgin paper and poisonous ink processes are outlawed, it won’t effect your business – because you are already buying sustainable products.

I’ll find ways to offset my additional costs of business cards, promotional items and shirts. Heck, maybe I’ll find a way to use significantly less (that’s green). If you insist on buying products for the lower price (to you), you are becoming part of the problem along the way.