No. 2: The paper chase
Remember the "paperless office"? Turns out it was just another fantasy, kind of like "clean" coal or change we can believe in.
Despite the influx of digital technology over the past 30 years, US office workers still consume an average of 10,000 pages per person every year, about $80 worth, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Nearly half of that paper ends up as trash before the day is out.
US corporations spend $120 billion per year on paper forms alone, notes a Xerox study. But the costs don't end at paper. Ounce for ounce, the ink inside a typical printer cartridge is 15 times more expensive than Dom Perignon champagne, according to Chronicle Research. Filing that paper, copying it, mailing it, storing it and finding it again can add up to more than 30 times the original cost of printing, per a 2005 study by the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance.
Have we convinced you yet?
A paperless office is still not very likely. But a less-paper office is entirely doable. Step one: Get rid of forms that need to be processed by hand, says Paula Selvidge, VP of user experience at PerfectForms, a business process automation company
"Companies often use paper forms to complete daily tasks or electronic forms that are then printed out (vacation requests, time sheets, bill-back spreadsheets, etc.)," says Selvidge. "Copies of these are sent to another group of people like HR after that, the next step in a long, overly complicated approval cycle, and finally handed off to the department head. You multiply this by the hundreds of admin tasks that require approval every day, and you can practically see the trees frowning."
Simply converting required forms from paper to digital instantly saved $10,000 for one school in California, Selvidge says.
Step two: Get employees to stop needlessly printing all or parts of emails, web pages or other electronic documents that don't really need to be on paper, says Kent Dunn, VP of sales and business development for GreenPrint, which makes software that helps users conserve paper and ink/toner by avoiding unnecessary print jobs. GreenPrint claims an enterprise with 5,000 PCs will avoid printing some 6.3 million pages, saving nearly $400,000 annually.
Even moving from cutting paper cheques to using electronic deposits will save one pound of paper per employee each year, saving employers an average of $176 per head, according to a study conducted by Javelin Research and sponsored by PayItGreen, a coalition of electronic payments vendors.
"There are no magic buttons that an organisation can press to solve the print waste problem," says Dunn. "In the end, individuals are responsible for creating print waste and they have to be involved to make it go away. Once people are engaged, they have to be empowered with the right tools to solve the problem, and then the organisation must enforce the print reduction targets it established."