Joe Miller – Founder of Print a Forest

[quote style=”boxed”]Action.  Figure out the little things you can do, and keep taking steps forward.  If you can’t build a prototype.  Take a survey or create a 1.0 pilot, so that when you get to the next level you have something real to show.   Talk to as many people as you can.[/quote]

When Joe Miller found out that students on university campuses were printing 4 billion sheets of paper per year, he knew something had to be done. Armed with the understanding that students would continue to use paper for academic purposes, he set out with the mission “what we can’t reduce, we must offset.”

His company, Print a Forest, aims to plant 75 trees for every tree used for the printing of paper. It’s a free software application that relies on a sponsorship revenue stream to donate to nonprofit reforestation efforts in endangered forests.  Print 100 Pages.  Plant a Tree.  In this way we could turn 4 billion pages, into 40 million trees.

What are you working on right now?

Print a Forest is free computer software that allows users to plant a tree for every hundred pages they print.  Print 100 pages.  Plant a tree.  Use Print a Forest’s software and be open to a small message from a brand across the bottom margin of the pages you print. Participation transform the users printer into a tree planting machine.

Users print from their own computer, to their own printer, but through our software.  Branded footnotes from advertising sponsors fund one of our non-profit reforestation partners planting 75 new trees for every tree worth of paper our users print.  With Print a Forest anyone can have their printer turn into tree planting machines and literally print a forest.  The free software is available for download at

Where did the idea for Print a Forest come from?

As a university student I was frustrated with the amount of paper that I needed to print, around ten pages of notes for every class.  I tried not to print off my class notes to the point where my grades suffered.  It’s impractical to type notes as a fiance major.

I began to realize the magnitude of the issue with the 45,000 students at my University printing 9 million pages a year on campus printers, and no doubt millions more pages being printed off campus.  Extrapolating on the known figure of 9 million, we can reasonably assume nationwide students print 4 billion pieces of paper just on campus.  The clearing of 530,000 trees to supply students with printing paper needs was unacceptable.  Students, environmentally conscious or not will continue to print hard copies of notes for their convenience.  This is a given.  But what we can’t reduce, we must offset.  So I created software that allows you to print, when you have no other choice, but do it in a environmentally friendly way.

What does your typical day look like?

I like to keep things fresh.  Consistently my day involves some sort of exercise.  Either biking, running, kayaking or yoga.  Also, I try and cook a meal once a day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Action.  Figure out the little things you can do, and keep taking steps forward.  If you can’t build a prototype.  Take a survey or create a 1.0 pilot, so that when you get to the next level you have something real to show.   Talk to as many people as you can.

3 trends that excite you?

Urban agriculture, farmers markets, community gardens.  During WWII Americans produced 40% of produce in Victory Gardens.  With community gardens we could declare a war on food insecurity.  That’s why Print a Forest is setting up a partnership with Greening of Detroit to make part of our reforestation initiative planting hunger fighting, fruit bearing trees in Detroit community gardens.

What is the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Honestly, I have been fortunate enough never to have a bad job.  My hardest job was in high school working for a carpenter during the summer building houses.  10 hour days moving lumber and it was exhausting,  but I just thought about it as training for the football.  Spending a summer carrying 2 by 4s up flights of stairs was all worth it in the 4th quarter when the season started.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have spent more time in school learning about technology, maybe some programming.  It may be a lost cause trying to learn how to write code.  Language, has never been my thing.  But I wish I had a  base of knowledge because there was a step learning curve when building the Print a Forest software.  Of course I couldn’t have known that.  I wanted to go into green building.

What is the one thing you did/do as an entrepreneur that you would do over and over again and recommend everybody else do?

Work out of a co-working space.  Over the summer I worked out of Green Spaces, a coworking space for green and social conscious startups, small businesses and freelance entrepreneurs.  As close to a utopian community, and space as you could possibly work out of.  It’s really does take a community to foster growth, and at Green Spaces you instantly join a group of bright minds working to make the world a better place.  If you are ever moving to a new city explore the coworking spaces.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The other night I had a dream about a vertical wind turbine.  The type with large flat sides to catch the wind.  The dream was about painting one side black, and the other white.  While this turbine is in the sun it would cause the black side to absorb light and give off heat.  While the white side would reflect light, and keep the air around it relatively cool.  This difference in air pressure on alternating sides of the blade would hopefully propel the blade forward and add to the efficiency, and output of the turbine.  Potentially could add to the eye sore argument, but it would be great is someone could test this.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?

Just one?  The Snowball: Warren Buffet  It is a time commitment, but it is worth it.  But I will also have to recommend,

Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves  Neuroplasticity is fascinating.

If you weren’t working on Print a Forest, what would you be doing?

I would like to work in urban agriculture next.

Three people we should follow on Twitter, and why?

  • @revolutionis
  • @good 
  • @richardbranson

When is the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it.

The show Workaholics.  It cracks me up.

Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?

Veronika Scott  –  incredible person  –   she went to a homeless shelter to have those who know best help her design a coat to fight the bitter Detroit winter.  The coats are sewn by Woman at the shelter, some of whom are now able to afford a home because of the employment.