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January 24, 2009

Efficiency of Green: Statistics, damn statistics, show me the green!

In my last post, I shared some of the statistics around paper waste in both private and public sector.

Sometimes, meaning gets lost in abstract statistics. They provide a great way to keep pulse of trends, but what can agencies and departments do to reduce paper waste? And what does it really mean in terms of cost savings?

Just asking these questions is a start to a potential goldmine in green. Both the Mother Nature and the Las Vegas type green.

Below are some of the examples of how reduction of paper waste led to significant savings. Some of these agencies followed the “green” line of inquiry whereas others started by looking at initiatives such as improved services or increased efficiency.

  • US Government Printing Office (GPO): The Federal budget exceeds 2,000 pages. Through digital distribution, GPO expects to save $1 million and 20 tons of paper and 480 trees
  • US Internal Revenue Service (IRS): The agency saves millions of dollars annually by lowering the costs to print, store, and mail tax materials—plus it has helped reduce the amount of paper discarded by minimizing the amount of paper forms that have to be thrown away when more current forms are printed.
  • State of Illinois Department Human Services: Savings of $6M per year in reduced paper use
  • Veterans Administration: $100,000 per form; The United States Office of Veterans Affairs saves one hundred thousand dollars worth of paper for every single form they deploy electronically with LiveCycle.
  • Australian Government: Using LiveCycle for a project they call “SmartForms” to get government agencies off of paper. They cited the following benefits:
      1) Reduce CO2 Emissions – 5.4kg for every ream of paper, 6% of a tree for every ream of paper
      2)Save Water – 1 Litre of water for every 3 pieces of paper.

The bottom-line results they each arrived at shows environmental stewardship can also significantly reduce operational costs. In these budgetary times, this is a very good thing.

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  • By Mike Perry - 1:27 PM on January 24, 2009  

    Alas, more than this needs to be done.

    A few weeks ago, I was having lunch outside one of Seattle’s public libraries when a large truck pulled up. The driver came up and asked me if I knew how he might deliver a pallet with a ton of IRS documents to the library. I had no answer and the librarians seemed a bit uncertain themselves.

    Somehow it was done. There are now large racks filled with tax documents in the library’s lobby. It’s a convenience to those in the neighborhood, but I can’t help but wonder if there might be a better way. I pay my state business tax online. Why can’t we do the same with our federal income tax?

    And yes, the latter is far more complicated, but shouldn’t it be made much simpler? Why should doing my federal taxes take $80 worth of software and the better part of a day? It’s not like I’m rich.

    As it is now, our incoming Secretary of the Treasury can plausibly claim that he somehow forgot or misunderstood that he needed to pay taxes on self-employed income. I think he’s lying, but if he can get away with it, what does it say about the tax returns the rest of us are filing?

    The wasted time is a lot more important than the wasted paper.