In the late 70s, Business Week made the rash prediction that, in the future, all of us would have our own computers and offices would no longer need paper. Well, they were half right. We all got computers. We also got ever-so-handy printers that made creating paper copies so much easier. Between 1980 and 2000, paper consumption actually doubled. Oops. The good news is that paper use in North America has since been on a downward trend.
Newsprint consumption is definitely on the decline in North America. Younger consumers are opting for digital versions, advertisers are choosing electronic media, and newspapers respond by designing smaller papers. Basically, the internet is bad for newsprint. But, I’m guessing it’s a godsend for the cardboard folks, as consumers start buying everything online and all that stuff comes in – you guessed it – cardboard. Books too, have gone paperless. Amazon sells more e-books than paper books these days, and I have to tell you, I discovered e-borrowing from the library in the last couple of months and it’s way too convenient.
One paper type that is not decreasing is called ‘human paper’ (a new term to me) – toilet paper, facial tissue, diapers, etc. It would appear that we’re not particularly inclined to consider reductions in this paper category. (Okay, I’m not really surprised by this one…)
The concept of a paperless office is making a comeback. Much of our communication is digital, through e-mail or other forms. People are working electronically, everyone is going to the cloud. Digital document storage options have improved. The arguments for keeping office paper in our lives have diminished.
Here at SWRC, we’ve always been pretty smug about our minimal paper use. Over our more than 20 year existence, we’ve bought 3 or 4 reams of paper total. Much of our paper is reused and we print on the second side (we further ‘cheat’ because we pay for photocopies and don’t have to buy the paper to supply the machines). But do we still have a printer? Umm, yeah. Do we still have paper files? Yeah … some. Have we figured out paperless finances? No. I think it’s time to give ourselves a little kick in our smug behinds and take our reduced paper use to the next level… paperless, here we come!