What happened to the paperless office?
Does anyone remember the dream of the paperless office? It was as long ago as 1975 that Business Week predicted the death of paper and printing. Instead, with the advent of cheaper and better printers, the average office worker now produces nearly a kilo of paper and paperboard products per day.
Here at Zone, we currently print over 200,000 pages per year. That's more than a tonne of paper, 99 per cent of which ends up in the bin the same day. And despite recycling, producing each tonne of office paper emits the equivalent of 6.3 tonnes of CO2. But it's not just the paper: it takes about a gallon of fossil oil to produce one laser cartridge, and we use more than 100 of them each year.
Polluting the office environment
Office printers also have a major influence on indoor air quality. Studies such as this one show a clear rise in the concentration of ozone, volatile organics and ultrafine particle emissions during operation of printers. These have both short and long-term impacts on human health, ranging from simple discomfort, fatigue and irritation to higher mortality rates due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. The damage is comparable to smoking.
At Zone we are taking a long, hard look at printing as part of our sustainability programme. Just how much of what we print is really necessary? With large screens on every desktop, smartphones in most pockets and the increasing use of tablets, isn't most of what we print just a lazy habit?
We have already introduced a successful trial in the development team, in which we lent a tablet to each staff member in return for being disconnected from the printers. We will also be making every staff member aware of how much they are printing, and setting targets for dramatic reductions and eventual elimination. I believe that the time of the paperless office has finally arrived.