It just requires a single day.
Almost 4 billion trees are cut down each year to produce around 300 million tons of paper, according to AIIM International, sponsor of tomorrow’s World Paper Free Day. If everyone went paper-free for just one day, it would save 821,918 tons of paper and 10,958,904 trees, AIIM says.
The event, now in its fifth year, is intended to make businesses mindful of the amount of paper they use and encourage them to reduce waste. “With on-going environmental issues compounded by businesses getting bogged down with too much of the stuff, it is clear we all use far too much paper,” AIIM writes on the event’s LinkedIn page. “World Paper Free Day is aiming to create awareness of what can be achieved by using less paper and make us all think twice before we press that print button in the future.”
Individuals from more than 100 companies have already pledged to support the event, AIIM says, and it is making a donation to The Arbor Day Foundation for each person who signs up. In addition, AIIM is asking participants to explain why they’re going paper-free. “Green agenda? Fantastic. Corporate Social Responsibility? More the merrier,” writes Peggy Winton, AIIM vice president and CMO, who’s in charge of the event.
The event’s Facebook page includes links to a number of organizations that are working to become paper-free—not just today, but always. These include KLM Airlines, British courtrooms, and even musician Cat Stevens.
How much can a single organization save? The amount of paper used by the British criminal court system, for instance, adds up to about 160 million pages annually. Storing, photocopying, and transporting that amount of paper costs approximately £30 million per year—expenses that would no longer be incurred should the system go paperless, according to The Independent.
Ironically, moving to computers has actually increased the use of paper, writes The Age. “Figures released by The Economist last year revealed paper usage increased by 50 percent over the past three decades despite the explosive use of technological gadgets,” writes The Age’s James Adonis. “Rather than eradicating the problem, the billions of new pages on the web have instead provided us with much more stuff worthy of printing.”
The overall use of paper is still increasing for 20 percent of businesses, according to AIIM, which is soon expected to release research demonstrating that an over-reliance on paper for business can actually negatively affect productivity, collaboration and efficiency. “Almost half of organizations surveyed said that the biggest single productivity improvement to their business would be to remove paper,” the company says.
The Age’s Adonis goes on to cite a number of behavioral reasons why people have such a difficult time letting go of their paper dependence. “For some people, it’s a habitual part of their workday that's just too difficult to give up, while others are kinaesthetic in nature, preferring a tactile work environment that isn’t compatible with constantly staring at a monitor,” he writes. Yet, these habits may finally be shifting. Analyst Jennifer Shutwell notes, for example, that printing is becoming less common as organizations move to smartphones and tablets, simply because printing from those devices is so difficult.
AIIM released a number of tips to help organizations reduce the use of paper:
- Promote the environmental and productivity benefits of going paper-free. “AIIM research revealed 50 percent of respondents said they still use so much paper because of a lack of management initiatives or mandates to reduce it.”
- Use tablets for meeting agendas and supporting documents. “Research found that for 60 percent of respondents, the main reason for paper copies of documents was for use in meetings.”
- Use software to reduce “to do” notes and lists.
- Take a hard look at the instances that actually require physical signatures on documents. It may be fewer than you think.
- Highlight the role that paper-free processes can play in business improvement workflow initiatives.
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