Following a discussion with Holly about Google’s “Go Paperless in 2013”campaign, I decided to determine our own office paper costs, to see what the potential benefit would be, for a small business such as ourselves, to attempt such a feat. It would also help me see if we would be saving the environment to do so. Mind you, almost all of what used to be paper only is already digital, but rather than an either/or scenario, it has evolved in our plant to frequently be both, as both have attributes that make them more desirable for given situations.
Copy paper usage for 2012:
- 3 hole punched (used for reports) 13,400 sheets @ $7.80 per thousand – $104.52
- Plain (used for copies, job instructions, invoices, shipping receipts, etc.,) 28,000 sheets @ $6.60 per thousand – $184.80
Total yearly paper cost of $289.32. Along with this would be toner cost, but it still represents a fraction of the cost to implement and maintain over time a system of devices, software and training for personnel to create a paperless workplace.
E-waste and Errors
The idea of providing terminals and software for every work station, that normally would have a written job instruction to follow or a written distribution list, is just absurd. What an incredibly expensive and inefficient way to work, not to mention the endless scope for error as suddenly everyone in the plant is responsible for keying in important information. At least with paper everything we use gets recycled. I cringe at the amount of e-waste we generate as it is. The idea of doubling the size of that useless pile of devices is not a cheerful thought.
Further, for us to go paperless our customers and suppliers would have go paperless as well. Some of our largest customers pay electronically but must be invoiced with hard copy including shipping receipts from complex distributions.
Printed Paper is a Renewable Resource
Most importantly, I see that most of the wood pulp used in making paper in North America is grown on small family owned parcels of land. If the owners of those parcels can no longer occasionally and selectively log their woods, with responsible forestry practices, they will have no income to offset their property taxes. In the long run that means fewer forests and more strip malls. If we want to increase the size of the forests, then we need to increase the value of and demand for wood products. Unlike electronic devices, trees are a renewable resource. Last I heard that was a desirable trait.
So is the Google campaign just blatant “greenwashing”? Given that there is no financial benefit and the alleged environmental benefits are dubious at best, I would have to say yes. I’m reminded of the Frank Zappa album: “We’re Only In It For The Money”. With nothing more tangible, all they have to sell is smoke and mirrors.
Without a doubt the Google consortium have their heads in the proverbial/digital cloud and I think I have a pretty good idea of what kind of smoke that cloud is comprised of. I only hope they’re not using the mirrors as well.