GOING PAPERLESS IN 2013: A Resolution & Personal Way to Fight Climate Change


Paperless2013. What does that really mean to me? I was born into a generation where we “touched and felt” everything, including what we read and what we wrote. In fact, something wasn’t real or proven unless you physically “had it” in your possession. For example, as a Representative of the International Monetary Fund at the United Nations, when I was covering the annual

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United Nations General Assembly, if I could get a “paper” copy (there were no other kinds of copies then….) of a head of state’s speech, before it was delivered live by that country’s leader, it was considered an incredible “coup.” I would then rush back to our office to make “paper” copies and hand out to “key contacts” or “fax” it around the world, one paper at a time, so we could share it with our staff abroad. I hate to tell you how many years ago that was though, as it definitely “dates” me.

Now I am the mother of two teens who use “paperless” social media to share their work and play on an “every minute” basis via their smart phones, tablets and computers. As the founder of a website and blog, I see where and how technology has moved us, whether we were ready or not, to a time where “digital information” is key – information which we can transmit, save, share and store electronically. As an environmentalist, I regularly remind people that when they do use paper to consider where it came from and it’s recycled content, from toilet paper to paper towels at home, and then for all office supplies, mailings and paper they use in their office – large or small.

When I was asked to support a New Year’s campaign called Paperless2013, a move to advance in a real way the ”paperless office,” I didn’t think twice and just said, “sure, I’m in!” The program has been created by a group of Silicon Valley companies I admire, including and among others, Google, Hello Fax, Manilla, Xero and Expensify. As someone who runs a small education and advocacy business on climate change, you would think I would have figured it out by now, but unfortunately I am still “swimming” in a needless pool of paper. As I see it, Paperless2013, a pledge to go paperless in our offices, is what I need to jump start my year, and “unfreeze me” from the state of panic I find myself in every time I walk into my office. I need to steel myself to look away from the piles of paper that envelope me, many of which I haven’t looked at thoroughly in months.

The Paperless2013 campaign is a simple one, sign up at Paperless2013, pledge to go paperless and begin receiving a short list of tips and ideas on how to be successful. Use the #paperless2013 hashtag, follow Paperless2013 on twitter and facebook. Be one of the first of your friends or colleagues to join this new campaign and let some of the “experts” in going paperless help you manage your family or small “business” paper load today! Let us know if you sign up and how and if you think going “paperless” is important and will help you.

I will keep you updated on a regular basis on my progress here at ClimateMama as I work to “clean up” my act and organize my own office and life!

As an aside, I have to say that as I researched this program, I was surprised that this simple “feel right” and straightforward campaign has generate an uproar and strong attacks from some voices in the printing industry. There is a need and requirement that certainly still exists for paper and it doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon.

However, in many developed countries the paper industry is often the 3rd or 4th largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation has many problems, not the least of which is our planet’s loss of trees – trees which act as important carbon “sinks” or “absorbers” of the carbon dioxide we humans emit. Every industry, as technology and times change, should revisit its mission and business practices and figure out how to be more effective and efficient. It would be foolish for us not to consider how to better store, use and save our documents. And in this regard, it is also important for those companies that do help us be more effective in the digital world, to think about their carbon footprint and energy use too.

Grab the kids in your life and tell them about your PAPERLESS2013 pledge today. Ask them to share their thoughts with you on paper, going paperless, and being more energy efficient and energy wise…


Climate Mama

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2 Responses to GOING PAPERLESS IN 2013: A Resolution & Personal Way to Fight Climate Change

  1. Jay says:

    Climate Mama,
    I understand that this may clean up the mess on your desk but are you helping the environment by switching communication systems? To make an electronic device requires mining and refining of dozens of minerals and metals, as well as the use of plastics, hydrocarbon solvents, and other non-renewable resources. But, to make paper you plant a tree. The trees, by the way, soak up C02. Which one has a bigger impact on the environment?

    The fact is both print and digital media use power and energy to produce their products. And, both must become increasingly more sustainable to survive but the choices consumers make should be based on a data-driven comparative analysis of lifecycle, carbon footprint and total environmental impact. The fact that most paper can be 100% recyclable is one of the benefits that makes print on paper sustainable. Recyclability is one of paper’s credentials as a renewable resource that can begin and end its life in a responsible manner. U.S. paper recovery rate for 2011 was a record-high 66.8 percent. On the other hand, only 18% of E-waste is being recycled. In fact Greenpeace says that E-waste is now the fastest growing component of the municipal solid waste stream.

    So, I hope that your clean desk is not exchange for a dirtier environment.

    • Harriet says:

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments Jay. I too hope that my clean desk is not exchanged for a dirtier environment and I will continue working hard this coming year to ensure that we all try we move our energy supplies away from fossil fuels to cleaner and renewable resources. You are absolutely right that we need to figure out a better way to deal with our e-waste and not treat technology and the tools we have developed in the disposable way we have been using them. We need to continue to improve and expand our recycling rates on paper and other devices and try to work towards “cradle to cradle” options. Look forward to your comments and information. Yours, Climate Mama

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