According to Scientific American, we are losing upwards of 80,000 acres of tropical rainforest daily[1], and with each person in the UK using the equivalent of 4.5 40-foot trees worth of paper per year[2] it’s clear that we need to reduce paper waste in our lives to protect our environmental resources. 

For many people, a paper-free office making use of digital note-taking and task management apps is a sustainable alternative to using reams and reams of paper. However, hand writing physical notes does have its benefits for some people (myself included), so if you’re prepared to recycle and invest in recycled paper products, it can be worth keeping a notepad to hand!

So what are the benefits of hand-written notes vs. digital notes?

1.) Reduced distractions – if you are logged on to your computer, laptop or mobile device and trying to make coherent notes, it’s all too easy to get distracted by emails and app notifications that come through as you are working.  If it is important that you maintain a single trail of thought throughout an activity (for example, if you are making notes about a complex subject or have a limited time available to make notes) it might be easier to write these down directly on paper rather than using a digital notepad or task management system.

2.) Better information retention – research suggests that when an individual writes something down on paper, they are processing that information in a physical, tangible form, making it easier for that information to ‘stick’ in the memory.  As a result, if you’ve got important tasks to remember, it could be worth creating a physical list or using an online task management system that has loud alarms and reminders!

3.) Enhanced creativity and improved wellbeing – when you’ve got a pen and paper on your desk, it’s easy to use the paper as a canvas for doodles and illustrations as well as important notes.  According to ‘The Lancet’, for some, doodling may be crucial for creativity or to aid in relaxation – things that are not necessarily associated with simply typing content into a digital tool.

Though it is highly recommended that we all try to live more sustainably, I still think that there is a place for hand-written notes in day to day life (particularly if you invest in environmentally friendly recycled paper products, and recycle after use).  Do you prefer physical notes or digital ones? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue!


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

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2125107/Global-consumption-paper-increased-half-1980.html

Reaves, R., Flowers, J. and Jewell, L., 1993. Effects of writing-to-learn activities on the content knowledge, retention, and attitudes of secondary vocational agriculture students. Journal of Agricultural Education34(3), pp.34-40.

Schott, G.D., 2011. Doodling and the default network of the brain. The Lancet378(9797), pp.1133-1134.

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