Laurel Brunner: Ignorance and Bamboo

It’s not unusual to encounter examples of environmental ignorance or to hear alarming comments from people who should know better. We experienced both in a recent meeting whilst discussing the need for environmental standards in the graphics industry. We were told in no uncertain terms that environmental science is really very simple. We were also told that there is a finite amount of carbon dioxide on the planet and that the amount of it won’t expand or diminish. Really?

That representatives of the paper industry have such a view is worrying, since one of the arguments for print is that it is based on renewable resources that use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen as part of their respiratory processes. But the encounter serves to demonstrate a useful reality. Even in the paper business there is still an entrenched lack of awareness of the issues shaping the sustainability of print.

The reality is that ignorance accounts for many impediments to progress and the embrace of new approaches in the graphics business. Digital communications posed a threat to print until people started to see how digital media and print can cohabit quite well. That threat is no longer perceived as being so serious. Also, paper use rises as economies develop and consumerism spreads. Both of these facts should encourage the traditional paper industry but it must surely be looking beyond the conventional wood based model. The industry needs new ideas for paper that may be even more beneficial for the planet.

One option is to use bamboo as a raw material for paper making. Bamboo is an environmentally desirable resource for paper-making. It can grow at up to one metre per day reaching maturity in three to five years, making bamboo the fastest growing plant on the planet. It grows back after harvest within a few months and thrives in poor soils and on hostile terrains where not much else will grow. Its root structures spread wide so it can help prevent soil erosion and it grows and can be processed in places that are economically depressed and vulnerable. Bamboo based papers with acceptable brightness, strength and printability qualities compared to wood pulp based papers are coming onto the market. However their environmental impact has yet to be established.

The nuances of carbon capture or the complexities of environmental science may not be universally appreciated. But professionals in the paper industry should try to keep up because the industry must keep up with its markets. There is no other option so like growing older, it has to be accepted. The alternative is even less desirable.

Laurel Brunner




This article was produced by the Verdigris project, an industry initiative intended to raise awareness of print’s positive environmental impact. This weekly commentary helps printing companies keep up to date with environmental standards, and how environmentally friendly business management can help improve their bottom lines. Verdigris is supported by the following companies: Agfa Graphics, EFI, Epson, Fespa, HP, Kodak, Kornit, Ricoh, Spindrift, Unity Publishing and Xeikon.

Laurel Brunner

Laurel specialises in digital prepress, digital production and digital printing and is managing director Digital Dots ( She provides international editorial, consulting and educational services to a wide cross section of publishers, manufacturers and industry associations. Laurel also participates several ISO working groups developing standards for the graphics industry and convenes a group responsible for standards relating to the environmental impact of graphics technology, including print media.

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