9th February, 2017

This week I have been thinking about paper – or, more accurately, thinking about no paper.  Nowadays, the ideal of a ‘paper-free’ office is becoming a more practical and reasonable solution for businesses.  With scanners built into printers and available as apps on phones, and safe and reliable external or cloud-based data storage solutions available for a reasonable price, it is now possible to create an infinite number of documents and store them all safely as digital files.

So what are the arguments for a paper-free office? Obviously, the primary factor is that a paper-free office is more environmentally friendly.  Apparently, a single established pine tree can produce around 80000 sheets of paper.  Occasionally, it can feel as though you are printing that many pages off a day… on a slight tangent, have you ever wondered how much paper you’d need to print the entire internet? In 2015, a student from the University of Leicester calculated that you’d need 136 billion A4 sheets of paper to do just that – interesting fact for you!  Back to serious paper related statistics though, according to the Scientific American[1], globally we are losing upwards of 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest on a daily basis (125 square miles) – daily! That’s a shocking statistic.  Admittedly, not all of that is rainforest clearance so that single species tree plantations can be established to create pulp for paper (land is also cleared for agriculture, palm oil production, etc.) but it definitely would make a positive difference to the world if we all addressed our paper habits and made a concerted effort to use less and recycle more.  If you have to buy paper, locating good quality 100% recycled paper is now easier than ever thanks to the wealth of stationery shops on the high street and online.  If you can’t find 100% recycled, keep an eye out for paper that is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, as the wood pulp used to generate FSC certified paper has been carefully tracked and inspected to reduce the ecological impact of the manufacturing process on the native rainforest.  FSC certification also requires that indigenous peoples living in a rainforest are not displaced through deforestation.

Although there are a great number of environmental benefits to a paper-free office, there are a few positives associated with putting real pen to real paper.   Doodling and drawing can help boost relaxation, stimulate the imagination and inspire creativity – something that may be lacking after a day sat looking at a computer screen. A 2014 article in the journal Psychological Science also suggested that putting pen to paper boosts memory and your ability to retain and understand concepts, a fact that might help if you have an upcoming lecture or training event that you are attending (and would like to remember!).

I confess that I am partial to a handwritten letter, diary or notebook and a post it note or 30, but that 2017 will be the year that I make a concerted effort to make my paper habits more sustainable through increased recycling, buying 100% recycled paper (when necessary), or keeping an eye out for FSC certified paper products when all else fails.  Will you join me? What are your goals for 2017? I’d love to hear them.

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/earth-talks-daily-destruction/

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