Wadih founded PairSoft and PaperSave, and he currently advises non-profits on business process improvement and technology.View all posts by Wadih Pazos
Wadih Pazos • October 29, 2015
According to Wired the annual growth rate for the amount of paper used by the average company is 25 percent. Currently there are over 4 trillion paper documents in the U.S. and that number is growing at a rate of 22 percent, or about 880 billion new documents each year.
That much paper causes many problems. It is bad for the environment certainly, each piece of paper is made from a tree and each tree felled is one less tree living and absorbing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. But more importantly for businesses, much of that paper needs to be stored, sorted, categorized and filed so that it can be found and used again if needed. Both the storage and the searching of all that paper are a resource heavy task, and workers have to devote time and effort to digging through piles of paper when it may not be necessary. In the modern world there are ways to cut down on how much paper comes into and is generated by an office. It pays to look into some of these methods as they will save time, money and the environment.
The first step is migrating internal documents like training manuals and proposals onto the cloud. Using a free service like Google Drive, a company can digitally host, share and edit all its internal documents. The drive system handles regular text documents as well as spreadsheets and slide presentations. It is collaborative and allows employees to simultaneously edit a given document and even supports chatting while editing letting colleagues in different geographical locations work side-by-side on the same thing.
Drive is an outgrowth of Gmail, a system which can also cut down on workplace paper use. It can be used for all interoffice communication with the email client handling big picture projects and the much simpler Google Chat function helping with quick queries. If Google is not useful, there are many other completely free programs on the web that allow for sharing, storing and editing documents that can help eliminate one layer of clutter.
A good step when trying to eliminate paper around the office is to find ways to limit the amount of paper that comes from external sources. If care isn’t taken to think critically about how to reduce the influx of paper an office can quickly find itself buried under mountains of paper. Make arrangements to have bank statements and utility bills delivered in paperless forms. Just about every type of company that bills externally now has a paperless option, so take advantage and cut down on the amount of useless paper that flows into the office.
For other documentation that comes into the office in paper form, try to find ways to digitize. Paper forms filled out by clients and vendors can easily be replaced by electronic forms filled out via a web portal or on a tablet in the office. You can even eliminate paper versions of forms that had traditionally needed a signature. A law passed in 2000, the Electronic Signatures and Global National Commerce Act made electronic signatures just as valid as hard copy ones in the United States.