Do Green Polices Apply to Paper Use?

By Geoffrey McLennan

I have observed 8.5×11 office paper use in government for a long time, maybe 40 years. It seems some of the promises of the past are still promises when it comes to reducing paper use.

Consider this: Back in the 1950s paper mills were prolific and office paper use abundant. Typewriters were the main users. Then came the period between 1960 and 1970 where environmental laws were passed nationwide. As we began to focus on the environment and the rapid depletion of forests, some of these laws focused on recycling office paper.

Then along came the technological advances of the 1980s and 1990s. In exchange for fewer support staff, government employees were given personal computers, printers and tech-support staff. The promise was that we would save paper by working online. This was perhaps the beginning of ‘greening” before the current green policies.

Now take a look around your office in 2014. PC’s are abundant and perhaps becoming obsolete to the omnipotent hand-held devices, laptops and other portable devices capable of delivering excellent service and virtual work products. Yet still we have larger, faster and better printers using more office paper. Will we ever keep the promise of using less paper, particularly in government driven by green policies?

We have progressed with secure online documents, secure electronic signatures and completed work/projects/licenses online. But what about all those reams of paper we continually buy and use?

We can send documents online to some very remote government outposts. Yet in our urban offices, we use paper. What will it take to keep the promise—use less paper and save energy—in our government workplace?

What do you think?


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