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"Paperless Pledge - Three Reasons to Raise Your RIght Hand"

The Paperless Coalition and Google are helping us to make a pledge to go paperless in 2013.

Here are 3 reasons why I have decided to make this commitment.


Even though a single sheet of 20 lb. copy paper costs about one half penny per sheet, the total cost of production, use, and ownership of paper is quite expensive.  In a typical office or school setting, each person, on average, will use 10,000 sheets, or two cases (20 reams) of printer paper per year.  Rounding to 1/2 cent per sheet means that right out of the gate, each person in the organization will consume $50.00 of plain copy paper in the course of a year.

But wait, there are printing and copying costs. Monochrome ink for an ink jet printer will cost between 4 and 10 cents per sheet (assuming an average coverage of 20%). Color ink for an ink jet printer will cost between 9 and 26 cents per sheet. Laser toner, both color and black, cost slightly less than their ink jet counterparts. Typical photocopy costs average 3 cents per page after factoring in the expenses of toner, hardware, electricity, repair, etc.

As you can see, just preparing printed materials for teachers and students could minimally double the paper cost per person, and realistically raise this cost 10 to 50 times depending on the print quality and page coverage. Keep in mind that this does not account for the shipping, storage, filing, and clean up costs associated with this paper use. It also does not account for all of the other forms of paper that we use daily in our offices, schools, and homes. My school district, like many large organizations, could save between $500,000 to $1,000,000 or more, per year by adopting paperless practices.

For additional detail on paper & printing costs - check out the following video (Going Paperless in Classrooms - Douglas County School Districtand additional web resources.

Environmental impact

The average person in the U.S. will consume 700 pounds of paper per year. This requires the processing of 2100 pounds of wood. That requires the harvest of 9 trees (6 - 8" in diameter, 40' tall). How long does it take for a tree to grow to that size? Tree consumption only tells part of the story as significant aspects of the environmental impact of paper production and use aren't as obvious, or as publicized:
  1. Forests store 50% of the world's terrestrial carbon. (Trees are important "carbon sinks" that hold onto pollution that would otherwise lead to global warming.)
  2. 50%of the world's forests have already been cleared or burned, and 80% of what's left has been seriously impacted by wood harvesting for paper.
  3. 42% of the industrial wood harvest is used to make paper.
  4. The paper industry is the 4th largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among United States manufacturing industries, and contributes 9% of the manufacturing sector's carbon emissions.
  5. Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste
  6. Municipal landfills account for one-third of human-related methane emissions (and methane is 23-times more potent a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide).
  7. If the United States cut office paper use by just 10% it would prevent the emission of 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases -- the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road.
  8. Compared to using virgin wood, paper made with 100% recycled content uses 44% less energy, produces 38% less greenhouse gas emissions, 41% less particulate emissions, 50% less waste water, 49% less solid waste, and of course, 100% less wood.
  9. Printing and writing papers use the least amount of recycled content -- just 6%. Tissues use the most, at 45%, and newsprint is not far behind, at 32%.
  10. Demand for recycled paper will exceed supply by 1.5 million tons of recycled pulp per year within 10 years.
  11. While the paper industry invests in new recycled newsprint and paper packaging plants in the developing world, almost none of the new printing and writing paper mills use recycled content.
  12. China, India and the rest of Asia are the fastest growing per-capita users of paper, but they still rank far behind Eastern Europe and Latin America (about 100 pounds per person per year), Australia (about 300 pounds per person per year) and Western Europe (more than 400 pounds per person per year).
Reducing or eliminating printed paper in schools and offices would significantly impact our environment in many positive ways.

Additional information

National Geographic - Green Guide

Environmental Impact (composite environmental impact index)

Digital is More Efficient

Information that has traditionally been recorded, stored, and shared on paper is quickly being replaced by digital transmissions and services. The world wide web allows countless users to share and interact with information simultaneously. Transactions that would take days to complete, can now transpire in seconds. Reading digital material offers significant enhancements to improve engagement and interaction. Online assessment offers opportunities for differentiated instruction and instant feedback. Digital communication allows us to connect, learn, and interact with other learners.

Like many people, I appreciate the value of time. Becoming more digitally literate in our daily lives not only preserves costly, renewable resources, it also helps us to use our most precious non-renewable resource, TIME, in more efficient and effective ways.

Amusing French Video - "Not completely paperless"

Inside the Classroom, Outside the Box! - Jill Thompson

Paperless 2013 - Blog


Finally, there are a lot of ways to save trees, barrels of oil, energy, landfill space, and reduce air pollution, and one of the solutions is to adopt paperless practices. Excellent ideas you have here! Keep them coming!
Robert Schuetz said…
Thank you DDM for taking time to comment on one of my favorite posts. Conservation just takes little effort from each of us. Together we can create significant change. Thanks again. Bob
Keith Sorensen said…
Unfortunately no one is going to give up printing on their own. Some type of policy or set of guidelines need to be put into place to reduce the amount of printing that occurs in your school. Introducing a cap on printing will be PAINFUL and teachers are going to HATE YOU but there's no easy, gentle way to make it happen. Good luck!

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