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AIIM’s World Paper Free Day: Paying Our Respects

I just had to share how happy I am that today is World Paper Free Day, an initiative from AIIM (the Association for Information and Image Management). In a post on their website, AIIM draws attention to a powerful reality that information has increased tenfold over the past five years, and if we don’t take measures to substantively decrease the amount of paper we use (and waste) we’ll literally be drowning in it.

I’ve often discussed the business advantages of moving paper-based processes online, and I’m by no means alone in this contention. Citigroup conducted a study that found that if every employee conserved just one sheet of paper per week, the cost savings would equal $700,000 per year. Another study came to the conclusion that the average U.S. office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year, or $80 worth (which is only a fractional estimate of the cost given storage and printing fees), so if a company of 1000 employees cuts their usage by 50%, that’s $40,000 in savings. And this is a baseline, bare-bones estimate. Paper storage, printer ink and filing fees, as well as the costs of regulatory compliance and improper archiving, can easily reach millions of dollars.

I could bring up dozens of examples of how companies have saved thousands upon thousands of dollars by cutting paper waste, automating business processes and workflows or printing casual documents double-sided or half-size. AIIM explicitly recommends as part of Paper Free Day that businesses:
• “Conscientiously make a point to not PRINT”
• “Investigate a business process or technology that can cut the paper waste in your office”
• “Participate or Produce a local Paper Free Day event”

The benefits of streamlined business operations, online collaboration and better routing and tracking of administrative tasks is the crux of BPM and why I work at PerfectForms. And while events like AIIM’s Paper Free Day are fantastic opportunities for all of us to take a step back and evaluate why we print, waste and abuse so much paper, I feel it’s important to take note of our responsibilities as citizens of the Earth.

It’s seems like an elementary school PSA when I say that paper comes from trees and that we all have to share this world, but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling a particular distaste for gross, senseless disrespect of the valuable resources around us. We don’t all have to run outside and hug a tree to make a difference. I’m sure the tree would be quite happy not having to be chopped down to make ten copies of a document no one will read.

Here’s hoping World Paper Free Day becomes a symbol of our progress as a society.

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