Don’t Print This Out: It’s World Paper Free Day

3 min read
  • Information Technology
  • Document & Records Management

Hope you’ve written Friday’s annual World Paper Free Day on your calendar.

Your electronic calendar, that is.

Admittedly, we’re wondering, “What makes this day different from any other day?” We like to think that every day is a paper free day. But we’re always happy when the rest of the world notices it, too.

Sponsored by AIIM, World Paper Free Day is intended to call attention to the amount of paper we use without even thinking about it, and pledge for a single day not to create any paper.

Citing the sustainability charity WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), AIIM points out that the average office worker uses up to 45 sheets of paper per day, of which more than half is considered waste. “AIIM’s research consistently shows that not only does paper create expensive waste, it also clogs up business processes,” the organization writes. “By digitizing content, enterprises can improve their ability to service customers quickly and effectively, facilitate collaboration, improve access to information for team members, and increase overall productivity.”

AIIM is expecting to soon release its report, Paper Free Progress: measuring outcomes, and noted that its research shows that 31 percent of business executives admit their office is ‘piled high’ with paper documents. Last year’s report, Paper Wars 2014—an update from the battlefield, found that 60 percent of respondents saw ROI on their paper-free projects within 12 months, and more than three-quarters had done so within 18 months. “Furthermore, 68 percent of respondents said that business-at-the-speed-of-paper will be ‘unacceptable in just a few years’ time’ and around half of businesses surveyed claimed that the biggest single productivity improvement would be to remove paper,” AIIM writes.

However, AIIM also found last year that only one in five respondents had a board-level endorsed policy to actually reduce paper and that 21 percent of organizations had actually increased their use of paper.

Happily, this year, many people are already getting the paper-free message, writes Jane Wakefield for the BBC. “Look around you on your next commuter journey and far fewer people are negotiating unwieldy newspapers—opting instead to read their news via a smartphone or tablet,” she writes. “Get off the train and the sea of commuters are much more likely to flow through the barriers with the swipe of a smartcard or credit card, while paper tickets are becoming a rarity at airports too. Even our interactions with government are taking a decidedly digital turn, with the UK government scrapping the paper car tax disc and people now routinely filling in tax returns electronically.”

And statistics show this is all having an effect. “According to the American Forest and Paper Association, total US paper shipments decreased by 5 percent in February, compared to the same time last year, while anecdotal data suggests that we use a third less paper than 20 years ago,” Wakefield writes.

Naturally, this being the decade of the 2010s, World Paper Free Day has a social media component. In addition to having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and YouTube, World Paper Free Day also has a Pinterest page, where it is holding a Tidy/Messy Desk Competition in honor of the occasion. You can also enter the contest by Tweeting a picture of your desk with the hashtag #wpfd to win a scanner.

In addition, AIIM is using World Paper Free Day to help build support for the One Laptop Per Child initiative, which provides children around the world with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop. AIIM is making a donation to the organization whenever someone pledges to follow World Paper Free Day. (Last year, AIIM supported Arbor Day, and ended up making a $1,000 donation to the Arbor Day Foundation.)

If you’re having trouble finding paper-free examples to follow, look no further than these examples of organizations that have developed paper-free processes:

Not to mention, secretly setting the defaults to discourage printing in your office. Moreover, citing IDC’s Mick Heys, even something as simple as a print management system, which will cancel jobs not printed overnight or restrict how many emails can be printed out, can reduce paper use by up to 20 percent, Wakefield writes.

If you missed World Paper Free Day this year, it’s not too late to mark it on your calendar for next year: Friday, November 4, 2016. And remember, with electronic calendars, you can even set it up to automatically repeat every year.

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