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.
Save the trees, don’t print. I hate seeing this message at the bottom of documents on my computer. It is an easy thing for marketers to say, to make them, and you, feel good about saving time and money with electronic communication. This falsehood carries over in to all forms of print, not just those emails, making everyone believe that paper is bad. Printing is bad. But is it really? Would you say, “Save the tomatoes, don’t eat pizza”? It is a fallacy that electronic media is more environmentally friendly than print.
Paper is a sustainable way to communicate. Print Grows Trees provides some facts about the environmental benefits of printed paper:
Printed paper is made from a renewable resource. Trees can be replanted in places where they were harvested and also in places where they don’t currently grow. As much as we love our electronic devices, they don’t grow on trees or anywhere else.
54.7 percent of all paper in the U.S. is currently recycled.
Printed paper can be recycled, recovered and reused. The systems that are in place for these processes are widely available and have become more efficient and sophisticated over the many years they have existed. In contrast, electronic devices are much more complex and expensive to recycle, recover and reuse due to the toxic nature of many of their components, and current systems are still in the early stages.
The average data center serving our electronic devices consumes the same amount of energy as 25,000 households.
The paper we use to print in the U.S. is made from more than 60 percent biofuels. Paper mills use what’s left over from the manufacturing process to generate bioenergy on site. This serves to:
- Divert waste from landfills
- Decrease the overall carbon footprint of paper products
- Decrease dependency on coal and other fossil fuels
- Help meet green energy goals in America
By contrast, server farms that power computers have become the fastest growing users of fossil fuel in the world, and the amount of energy they use is doubling every year.
I, along with printers all around the world, was very surprised to find that Toshiba America Business Solutions has announced that Oct. 23, 2012, will be “National No-Print Day.” Toshiba wants to “raise awareness of the impact printing has on our planet” and of “the role of paper in the workplace. The European organization, Two Sides, has challenged Toshiba’s ‘No Print Day’ as Greenwash .
“Printing is the only medium with a one-time carbon footprint—all other media require energy every time they are viewed. Electronic devices, which Toshiba produces, for example, require the mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals, as well as the use of plastics, hydrocarbon solvents, and other non-renewable resources. Moreover 50–80 percent of electronic waste collected for recycling is shipped overseas and is often unsafely dismantled. For Toshiba to call for such a ban on printing is hypocritical to say the least.”
I have a previous Blog post about my experience with printed maps versus electronics. Surprise: Print and electronics work together to provide more value. Why would Toshiba, who makes printers, and fax machines completely loose sight of this?