Aiming for the Paperless Office
From a green perspective, reducing the amount of paper you use is key. Paper is produced from trees, which are a declining natural resource. Wasted paper means that not only the wood is wasted but also the chemicals and energy that went into processing the paper. More paper is being recycled than ever before, but even the process of recycling paper uses energy that can be saved if less paper is used in the first place. (Don’t even think about the amount of steel saved by reducing the number of paper clips used to hold paper together!)
Even though a completely paperless office may be unrealistic, technology allows you to greatly reduce the amount of paper you use at work. Use paper only when it’s absolutely necessary, such as for tax and government regulation compliance issues. Otherwise, use the technology that’s available to you. Use these simple suggestions for cutting back on paper usage and putting gadgets to good use:
Review documents electronically on your computer screen, laptop, cellphone, or PDA (personal digital assistant). The more you use the screen, the easier you’ll find it to review and edit material without printing it off and using a pen. These tools also enable you to work wherever you are and are just as portable as paper.
Use e-mail and Internet access. Advances in these areas enable people and companies to combine e-mail with fax and voice-mail retrieval.
Use a scanner to make digital versions of images or items so that you can exchange them electronically and copy them into electronic reports.
Take pictures with a digital camera to save both ink and photographic paper if you maintain and exchange photo files electronically.
Use Web pages, CDs, DVDs, or memory sticks instead of paper documents. Documents can be exchanged via e-mail or accessible servers if appropriate and depending on their size and security needs. Company regulations and policy documents also can be posted on the internal computer system (intranet) or on CDs or DVDs rather than being printed out.
Keep files in online storage systems, which enable centralized electronic information management on a network that everyone in the company can access. These online systems can replace hard-copy filing systems.
The more you trust technology (with appropriate file backups), the less likely you are to want to maintain a paper filing system to back up your computer filing systems.
Make sure that people have remote access to the company network so they can access work from home or another remote location without carting around a heap of documents.
Print on both sides of paper.