Paper reduction – Green and Sexy!

Deforestation

Photo credit crustmania

Paper reduction is just not a sexy topic. Virtualising your servers, making your building more energy efficient, or using TelePresence to reduce your carbon footprint – these are big, exciting, engineering projects. How can you compete with that?

Well consider three little known facts:

  1. The pulp and paper industry is the single largest consumer of water used in industrial activities in OECD countries and is the third greatest industrial greenhouse gas emitter, after the chemical and steel industries (OECD Environmental Outlook, p. 218)
  2. Most of the world’s paper supply, about 71 percent, is not made from timber harvested at tree farms but from forest-harvested timber, from regions with ecologically valuable, biologically diverse habitat. (Toward a Sustainable Paper Cycle: An Independent Study on the Sustainability of the Pulp and Paper Industry, 1996) and
  3. Tree plantations host about 90 percent fewer species than the forests that preceded them. (Allen Hershkowitz, Bronx Ecology, p. 75, 2002)

Paper production is an enormous consumer of water, massive producer of greenhouse gases and it contributes significantly to loss of biodiversity?

Now paper reduction initiatives should start looking attractive!

What kind of paper reduction initiatives are out there?
There are lots of them and they start with simple initiatives like configuring printers to do double-sided printing by default and also to require people who send print jobs to networked printers to be physically at the printer (using a pin code or swipe code to verify) before it prints to avoid documents being printed and forgotten about. Adobe’s Randy Knox informed me when he gave me a tour of their San Jose HQ that Adobe managed to reduce their paper consumption by 40% simply by defaulting their printers to double-sided printing.

The move to digital printing is also proving hugely beneficial for paper reduction. HP have several offerings in this space. HP’s Forms and Document Automation product [PDF], by enabling on-demand printing, dynamic form creation and electronic distribution, drastically reduces paper use and does away with the costs and environmental impacts associated with warehousing and logistics. While HP’s Output Manager’s ability to manage, distribute and share information can cut down on the need for printed pages by as much as 70%. HP are obviously not the only ones in this space but I am acutely aware of their solutions as they are a GreenMonk client. Also, HP have had a long and successful track record in printing and imaging solutions.

When you think about paper reduction, though you also have to consider the heavy use accountancy systems make of paper. This is a problem companies the likes of billFLO are trying to address. billFLO creates a machine readable invoice which can be emailed alongside a pdf (human-readable) invoice. When the buyer receives the billFLO Invoice they import it into their accounting system with a click and archive the pdf invoice for future reference. This reduces paper use and the likelihood of data entry errors.

When it comes to paper reduction though, few companies have the focus, capabilities or paper reduction potential that GreenMonk’s latest client, StreamServe has. StreamServe’s customers are the telco’s, utilities, insurance companies, etc. – companies who can be easily creating 100m invoices per year and up. One StreamServe customer, Emdeon, was printing and distributing as many as 800,000 paper reports a day. By moving to StreamServe and SAP’s Business Objects, Emdeon has now automated that process and makes the reports available online.

StreamServe also works with their customers to reduce paper output by moving marketing messages from separate inserts accompanying bills to onserts printed directly on invoices reducing the number of pages sent. StreamServe also highlights the benefits of e-invoices to end customers. This typically increases the uptake of e-invoices, reducing the telco/utility’s paper footprint. And when you are talking of companies who print hundreds of thousands of invoices per day, moving customers to e-invoices can have a significant environmental benefit.

What other paper reduction initiatives can you think of? E-books e-paper and audio books are another superb way of reducing paper but I want to leave discussing them for a separate post.