How bad is it?
Not great. Paper waste is a serious environmental issue. The environmental conversation often revolves around plastic. We see images of sea turtles wrapped in plastic and birds with their stomach full of candy wrappings. Undeniably awful realities that we should all want to help turn around. What is harder to capture in a single picture are the thousands of hectares of forest cut down for agriculture, timber, and paper. How do we show all the species that have gone extinct because of deforestation? If we can’t see it, it’s much harder to feel the urgency of it. Take a look at this interactive map by Global Forest Watch and look at the difference between tree loss and tree gain, it is not a pretty picture. If you want to know more about plastic versus paper waste, watch the Ted Talk by Leyla Acaroglu on this topic.
There are a thousand excellent reasons to aim for a paperless office. It saves money, space and, most importantly, it is a reasonable contribution to reducing deforestation. However, depending on your business, there might also be very strong reasons why it is not (yet) possible to completely get rid of all paper. It might be that your government requires you to store certain files both digitally and hard copy. Paper also plays an important role in many brainstorm sessions. Without any good, affordable alternatives out there, you might not be ready to give that up. Be realistic about your own paper reduction but also be conscious about your use. At the very least recycle and use recycled paper.
A simple contribution
If you’re ready to do a little more than just recycle, a paperless office might be right up your alley. There are numerous ways to reduce and eradicate paper from your business environment and most of them are technological solutions. Here are some ideas on how to create a paperless office.
- One easy way is taking away some technology, the technology to print. If there is no printer or if you have to work hard to get to it, paper waste will be strongly discouraged.
- Do you use hard copy files to give everyone insight into certain matters in the office? There is no need to store any paper documents when everyone in the office has access to important files in Google Drive or Dropbox.
- If your reason for printing is cross referencing two documents, a second monitor to your computer makes the printing redundant. You can now easily put two documents next to each other without the need for a hard copy one.
- Most of all, don’t make anyone sign a physical document. Electronic signing is easy and can save hundreds of pages of contracts and agreements.
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