Restoration Hardware Gives Print a Bad Name

I just received a 17 POUND, 13-volume catalog from Restoration Hardware! Unsolicited, or course.

Don’t get me wrong – I love print and paper. But like anything, it can be used responsibly or irresponsibly. Funny thing – they wasted an additional piece of paper touting how environmentally-friendly this pile of paper is. They’ve taken three steps to save the environment.

  • Mailing once a year.
  • Forest certified paper.
  • Carbon neutral shipping.

These steps bring up a lot more questions than they answer. They all represent false choices. They want you to believe they made the responsible choice out of the only alternatives. These are steps in the right direction, but there are many other questions, many other alternatives.

Instead of mailing the 17-pound bundle once a year, Restoration Hardware could have chosen to not ship them at all. Or to ship far fewer than 13 catalogs. Or ship them only to people who request the library. Or let people request just the catalogs they are interested in.

It’s great that they used forest certified paper. That is better than using paper from old growth forests. But the real, honest question – why use so much paper at all? Some people believe that using recycled paper is better for the environment than using virgin paper, even if it was sustainably forested. Was the paper bleached with chlorine? Did they use petroleum based inks? Since they don’t tell us otherwise, I would assume so.

The choice of carbon neutral shipping vs. more polluting shipping. Makes me wonder – what about the energy involved in getting all this paper to the printer? Creating the paper, the ink? Running the printing presses? Was this all carbon neutral? What about the energy involved in the recycling truck or (heaven forbid!) trash truck carrying these back away from our houses? Where were these printed? Did they need to ship overseas to get to us?

And the biggest questions I have are related to design. I always consider the end user when designing anything. Who is going to read all of this? Who has room to store this in their home? Certainly not me, if they consider me a good prospect. I will probably skim through the “Objects of Curiosity” volume because – you know – I’m curious. And I’ll recycle all the rest.

Let me know if you want some before they make the next step on their journey to turn back into new recycled paper.