Is Going Paperless Better Or Worse For The Environment?

We’re passionate about protecting the environment and we are always actively looking for ways to improve our own operations and those for our customers to make the way we all work as eco-friendly as possible.

Document SolutionsAn easy place for any business to start is by reducing the amount of paper that is used. The average office worker in the UK uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year (approximately an entire trees worth) and of that nearly 7,000 sheets are thrown away having being printed with errors or duplicated. There are a few ways to decrease paper usage and paper waste:

User Responsibility:

Are your staff aware of the amount of paper they use? The amount of paper they throw away? The cost implication to the environment? The financial cost to the business? The importance of recycling and reusing if possible i.e. can a page printed with errors be turned over and used as a desk notepad for the day? Can the document be scanned instead of printed? Are they actively using the toner recyclingservice? By having conversations with the teams, leading by example and holding follow up conversations with those who don’t get on board, you’ll find your paper usage will start to decrease. We have lots of tips and tricks for responsible printing which our friendly team are happy to share with you.

Managed Print Service:

Weaver & Bomfords offer a managed print service that will give you an audit of your current printing network. We then design, implement and manage a bespoke managed print service that takes into account your devices, operational logistics and network. The service is tailored to your needs and includes detailed management reports by users which allows you to see which departments/individuals use the printing network the most and where you can implement changes such as duplex or monotone printing only. It also allows for the user to identify themselves at the device before any document is printed meaning that individual user can easily cancel the print, or think twice over the need to print before actually doing so.

Document Solutions:

We are experts in document solutions and can help you to take your documents and secure information online. Office workers often spend hours hunting for digital documents and we make it easy to access them in one place with a document workflow. No matter where the initial document was originated – a scan and store, print and save, copy, they are all saved into the cloud or local network saving time and money whilst improving security.

PaperlessHowever, although some paper usage may be decreased in a more organic way (such as duplex only printing and ability to cancel print at the device), the other ways described above are using more energy and power not only on the devices but external sources such as the cloud. This begs the question – is going paperless better or worse for the environment?

Going paperless has many benefits but does have a few drawbacks. Namely related to the device manufacturing processes and cloud data centre energy usage. Using devices as opposed to paper means there are more devices in use as well as more and more data centres as those devices connect to the internet. Each device used has to be manufactured which involves many processes including extraction and transportation of raw materials, machinery and energy to then make the product (factoring in the energy needed to actually run the factory such as lights, administration, catering etc), storage and distribution of the product, the retailers associated energy costs and delivery and then the energy required for power by the end user. Added to this is then the datacentre cost to the environment. Every device that connects to the internet goes through a datacentre and everything that is stored onto the cloud is done so in the same way. Due to the huge surge in demand over the last few years for cloud storage, datacentres have grown rapidly and with a somewhat disregard to their effect on the environment. Of course IT efficiency is improving but not at the rate of which the datacentres are being built. Datacentres not only require a lot of power to run the equipment, they also need a lot of power to cool down the heat that is generated. They currently account for the same amount of greenhouse gases as air travel: 2%.

So what about not going paperless?

Ultimately paper is a sustainable resource. It comes from a plant, that grows using the sun and water, and can be replanted and sustained for years to come. In the UK we also recycle 80% of our paper meaning the process is even more sustainable. The government currently have a long-term initiative to plant new trees and have 12% of the country tree-covered in as little as 40 years time. However, although sustainable there are environmental costs. Machinery using power needs to be used to farm the trees, which are then transported to a factory to make the paper using more power for the manufacturing process and well as the costs to run a factory. Once the paper is produced, it needs to be stored and transported to the retailer who again then has to store  and transport it to the user. Once the paper has reached the end user, chances are that user is using a device such as a printer or MFP to print onto the paper using more energy. And then there’s the costs associated with recycling the paper.

Managed Print ServicesBoth ways have positive and negative connotations for the environment. It’s also important to remember that some of these processes are necessary for us to go about our everyday lives. So which way is better? Paperless or not? It’s fair to say we don’t know, not yet anyway. A blend of both is often needed in an office environment and we can help you to achieve the optimum balance. There isn’t enough research so far into the impact of either on the environment long-term. What we do know is that reducing paper usage and reducing energy usage will certainly help you to do your bit and conserve resources.

As we said earlier we are committed to helping ourselves and our customers save energy. We are experts in our field and are your single source solution for everything office related. Our friendly team offer you first class support and can advise you with all sorts of things from recycling tips, which of our devices are the most energy efficient from our MFP and printer range and how a managed print service or document management system can help you and your business. Want to have a chat with us? You can contact us here.