That’s still a lot of trees…

Recently in a local business journal that monitors government contracts and spending, I came across a series of contracts that were awarded to multiple vendors for toner cartridges – remanufactured toner cartridges. The total spend was in the millions for these refurbished cartridges, far in excess of any of the IT contracts in the same publication that would indicate a move away from the endless reams of paper that are generated by the Ctrl-P or Apple-P or Command-P functions.

It strikes me that the use of the computer has probably generated even more paper usage and waste than we thought we would save by replacing our pen with a keyboard and our dayplanner with a productivity suite. So I did some really bad journalistic investigation to see what I could find out.

First I compared some Google search terms.

- “toner cartridge” generated about 8.7 million responses
- “paperless office” generated about 700,000 responses
- “printer” topped out over a billion responses
- “monitor” returned about 670,000 responses

The good news was that PDF returned about 2 billion responses so at least we know people are trying to reduce paper usage by turning documents into PDF. But then we print PDFs all the time – so if each PDF response was printed out 5 times and averaged 2 pages that would account for 20 billion sheets of paper or 2,400,096 trees or 3524 acres of forest.

In the end, we know it has nothing to do with technology preference, choice or anything like that. It is still all about lifestyle, choices, safe thinking and preservation of ritual. We need the chainsaws running if we are going to keep up with the advances in technology.

Sad, but true.

Some more helpful but somewhat useless facts to help you determine the impact of Ctrl-P:

- 1 ton of uncoated virgin (non-recycled) printing and office paper uses 24 trees
- 1 ton of 100% virgin (non-recycled) newsprint uses 12 trees
- A “pallet” of copier paper (20-lb. sheet weight, or 20#) contains 40 cartons and weighs 1 ton. Therefore,
- 1 carton (10 reams) of 100% virgin copier paper uses .6 trees
- 1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets
- 1 ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree (and those add up quickly!)
- 1 ton of coated, higher-end virgin magazine paper (used for glossy magazines like National Geographic and many others) uses a little more than 15 trees (15.36)
- 1 ton of coated, lower-end virgin magazine paper (used for newsmagazines and most catalogs) uses nearly 8 trees (7.68)
Source: Conservatree

Here are my suggestions to get this on track:

- Stop printing emails
- Get a better monitor (for $200) so you can read things online
- Only print the parts of a PDF that you need to read on paper
- Use best practices in web design to allow font resizing and optimizing layouts for print
- Stop printing ppt – you hate ppt shows, why print them out?
- Keep all the things you print out in your laptop bag each week – this should make it clear if you have a printing problem
- Make all your graphics and illustrations 72 dpi or 96 dpi – that way they look great on screen and they suck in print

And finally, check to see how much your local government is spending on printing things out, and see if you cant find some opportunistic technology solutions to help them address this obvious atrocity at the expense of the taxpayer.