You know what’s coming Nov. 6, right? If you said Election Day, well, you’re half right. It is indeed mid-term Election Day, but it’s also annual World Paper Free Day.
Developed by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) – a nonprofit that provides standards, research and education for information professionals – World Paper Free Day was established to raise awareness of the massive amount of paper used unnecessarily and to promote paperless technologies. People and businesses are encouraged to stop or drastically reduce their paper use for the day. Not only will doing so cut paper use for that one day but can help illustrate ways to reduce paper at the office more permanently.
While the completely paperless office is likely unrealistic, figures on how much paper flows through a business are quite staggering. Consider a few of these statistics:
- The U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population yet consumes more than 30 percent of the world’s paper.
- The U.S. uses approximately 68 million trees each year to produce paper and paper products.
- The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year.
- 45 percent of paper printed in offices ends up trashed by the end of the day1
The amount of paper used in offices finally started to decline after peaking in 2007, according to InfoTrends. Businesses now produce about 10 percent fewer pages than they did then. AIIM conducted a study a few years ago that found half of businesses were decreasing the amount of paper they consumed. About 25 percent said they operated in fully digital environments.
Clearly, the modern digitization of business has aided this reduction in paper use, but plenty more can be done. Here are a few steps organizations can take to reduce paper use that might be easier than they first appear.
- Get rid of the fax machine. If you haven’t already, the fax machine needs to go. Just about anything faxed can be sent electronically.
- Utilize electronic signature software. A primary reason for printing documents used to be in order to get “wet” signatures. Electronic signatures have become widely accepted and greatly reduce the need for lengthy documents requiring signatures.
- Make printing difficult. In addition to discouraging use of printed documents in your office, you can take measures like forcing a pop-up box before printing asking the user if it’s absolutely necessary to print that document. In many cases, a digital version probably suffices or works better.
- Dual monitor setup. Oftentimes, it’s necessary to look at one document while working on another. With a single monitor, many people might prefer to print something out to keep it in view while working on the computer. With multiple monitors, this can be done digitally, allowing the second screen to function as the “printed” document.
- Double-sided printing. In the event printing is necessary, use both sides of the page. This literally cuts printing almost in half.
While you can work on reducing the number of pages your organization produces, what about the pages you already have? No doubt if your business has been around awhile, there are filing cabinets, storage boxes, maybe even storage rooms full of paper documents.
It’s important to have a records management plan for those old documents, as well as the new ones you create. If you don’t think so, consider this: 70 percent of today’s businesses would fail within 3 weeks if they suffered a catastrophic loss of paper-based records due to fire or flood2.
According to AIIM research, 51 percent of people regularly scan documents to archive them. Digital backups of documents are handy, but also consider that it was found that 43 percent of companies were immediately put out of business by a “major loss” of computer records, and 51 percent permanently closed their doors within two years.
That’s why it’s true now, and likely will remain true, that the most secure backup copy of vital documents in on microfilm. So secure, in fact, that you can finally – without worry – get rid of those reams of paper documents and recycle them to further help save trees.
The world never will be completely rid of paper, but steps can be taken to reduce its use. Trees are the lungs of the earth, and the more of them we can save, the better off we all will be. So, keep that in mind on Nov. 6 – before and after you vote.