You hear it everywhere: paperless workflow, paperless office, etc. It sounds great in a marketing pitch and dovetails with the "going green" craze. Working for a paper manufacturer, I have a biased take on a "paperless society," but I'm tired of hearing how bad logging is and how the paper-making industry is to blame for deforestation.
First of all, it creates jobs -- one thing people SHOULD be worried about right now. Second, a wider demand among consumers for certified sustainable paper means that more logging companies are practicing sustainable forest management, which takes into mind sensitive habitats, wildlife, rivers and watersheds, etc. Sustainable management means no clear-cutting and calls for removal of the poorest quality trees in stages over a 70-150 period. This gives the better quality trees more room to grow and drop seeds for the next generation and keeps the forest healthy and productive for the long term.
So don't believe the hype, it's OK to print. Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provides jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago.
Don't get me wrong, it makes me sick to see the deforestation in the Amazon (mainly being clear cut for high-value timber used in fancy furniture sold in the U.S.), and elsewhere in the world, and therefore I would encourage people to demand their forest products come from a certified sustainably managed forest.
Thanks for letting me vent. I'm going to explode the next time Joe-know-it-all on Facebook shares his misinformed views about politics, business and society.
(5/15/12 -- from a recent What They Think newsletter)
"As I have said many times before, the environmental benefits of reducing or eliminating print and paper are not especially clear, and are often rather dubious, but the danger is conflating other benefits of reducing print and paper with environmental benefits:
Although Noonan says more and more universities do have committees interested in the environmental benefits of saving paper, the first order of business is saving time and money. To wit, the University of Oregon saved $200,000 by eliminating paper course/faculty reviews (and scanning costs/labor). The University of Washington’s online admissions system helped it avoid having to send 30,000 pieces of mail.
If there is a drive toward a paperless office (or, more likely, a more modest "less-paper office") it's being driven by cost, convenience, and de-cluttering, and not so much by green concerns. And that's fine. Chacun a son gout. (Studies have found that even people who opt for paperless billing often end up printing out the invoices themselves. So, basically, the cost of printing has been shifted from the invoicer to the invoicee. Clever of them, eh? I think of this as a hidden fee so I still refuse to choose paperless statements.)
Are we inching closer to a paperless office? I doubt it, but:
According to the GreenBiz State of the Paper Industry 2011 report, total paper consumption in North America declined 24 percent between 2006 and 2009, and per-capita consumption of paper in North America dropped from more than 652 pounds per year in 2005 to 504 pounds per year in 2009."