Catalogue distributors have faced an interesting dilemma as the electronics industry moves toward environmental awareness. Millions of engineers, buyers, and even hobbyists still want paper catalogues for flipping through and dog-earing pages for future reference. So catalogue distributors are trying to be as environmentally responsible as possible by using eco-friendly paper and inks and reducing the frequency of catalogue printings.
Catalogue distributors did, for a while, try to redirect customers to CD-ROM catalogues and then to online catalogues. But customers rebelled. Distributors also tried to publish their catalogues less frequently. That got mixed reviews. So now, catalogue houses operate under a compromise of sorts: catalogue updates are usually published online or on disk, and paper catalogues are as environmentally friendly as possible.
For example, this week, Electrocomponents plc announced it is using UPM EcoLite paper to produce its catalogue. RS prints over 760,000 copies of its catalogue every year for customers across Europe and Asia Pacific. In the US, Electrocomponents' Allied Electronics catalogue meets Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification. This means all paper used in the catalogue was obtained from the SFI program, which integrates the perpetual growing and harvesting of trees with the protection of wildlife, plants, soil, water, and air quality.
Here's a snapshot of what other catalogue distributors are doing to minimize their impact on the environment:
- Chicago-based Newark and its parent Premier Farnell, based in England, are trying to reduce the frequency of all printed materials, including mailings. Both catalogues use paper that meet SFI or the overseas FSC certifications, or are printed on recycled/recyclable paper. The catalogues are published using soy-based inks.
- Digi-Key Corp.'s US catalogue is produced with paper containing 33 percent post-consumer fiber and may be recycled through a paper board recycling program.
- Although the specifications of its printed catalogue aren't mentioned on its website, Mouser Electronics has a corporate environmental policy that encompasses lead-free and RoHS, WEEE, packaging waste, and batteries and chemicals, and works with suppliers and customers on their recycling and disposal efforts.
All the catalogue houses are encouraging customers to recycle old catalogues and to pass on extra copies to peers.
Readers, what's your preference — paper or online — and why? Let us know at or, better, on the message board below.