Oddly, as technological innovations have advanced, and use of handheld communication devices expanded, so has the production of paper and consumption of trees. In 1961, world production of paper and paperboard stood at 77 million tons. In 2005, 354 million tons (more here).
Meanwhile, recycling of paper and paperboard in industrialized nations is consistently less than 50% of the waste stream.
Fun fact:Recycling 1 ton of paper saves the energy equivalent of 185 gallons (700 liters) of gasoline.
Less fun fact: In 2008, the US EPA reported that in the US alone, over 35 million tons of paper went unrecycled.
Meetings Industry example: COP15 exceeded 8 million printed pages for its 10 day event (=the weight of two Caterpillar dump trucks).
There exist many, many tools, resources and recommendations to guide a move to reduced printing. What’s needed now is social change (getting comfortable with practices to reduce paper use at the source) and action. Some fundamentals:
1. Measure your use and attach a monetary value to that. Set a goal to reduce use using money as a goal.
2. Convert your paper use to interesting environmental impact figures: Check out this
3. Change your purchasing practices to mandate a minimum of 35% post consumer recycled paper. In most industrialized nations, it’s cost is at par or below virgin paper stock. Pressure suppliers.
4. Educate your stakeholders (see above) and advise them that your Congress directories, annual reports, telephone directory, newsletter, etc, will only be available online. Encourage readers not to print.
5. Collaborate with your printer. The more you print, the more they make, but good providers have practical solutions for reducing (expanded margins, smaller sizes, paper types, etc). Explain your goals and approach them as a resource and a partner.
Let’s tame that paper hungry beast
Your ideas? Helpful resources?