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Is it Greenwashing?

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Holly B

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Google launches  Go Paperless in 2013 campaign. Funny thing, all of the "paperless" sponsors are companies that profit from electronic media using enormous amounts of electricity!



Dennis McClendon

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Enormous amounts?  Compared to the energy used for making paper?


Issues like this can't be judged simplistically.

Dennis McClendon, Chicago CartoGraphics




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The paper mills of today are not the fossil fuel hogs of 20-30 years ago.  The ever increasing cost of fossil fuels have driven the industry to become more efficient and even (gasp!) sustainable.  The result at the mills are biomass cogeneration plants that utilize all the parts of the tree that didn't go into the paper.  These plants normally supply more than half of a mills energy needs and some provide 100%.  The mills that did not invest in alternative fuel sources are the ones that have closed as they could not compete.  Although the price of electricity and fuel oil continue to go up, the price of paper is today the same as it was 28 years ago when I started in printing.    

Derek Tonn

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Copy paper usage for 2012:
  • 3 hole punched (used for reports) 13,400 sheets @ $7.80 per thousand – $104.52
  • Plain (used for copies, job instructions, invoices, shipping receipts, etc.,) 28,000 sheets @ $6.60 per thousand – $184.80

Total yearly paper cost of $289.32.  Along with this would be toner cost, but it still represents a fraction of the cost to implement and maintain over time a system of devices, software and training for personnel to create a paperless workplace.


I read the blog posting.  A few things that came to mind:


1. Toner cost.  Actually, saying that paper cost is $289.32, then sweeping the cost of toner under the rug, is a substantial distortion of the facts.  Ink/toner has gotten VERY expensive over the years...and most of the time people are buying toner, it has paper (recyclable) and plastic (*maybe* recyclable) used for its packaging as well.  Which was also delivered in "raw material" form to a manufacturer in some type of packaging.  Which was probably in-part delivered to that initial producer in?  You guessed it...some form of paper/plastic/??? packaging.  Costs that must be accounted for if one wants to make the type of assertions you are making.


2. Packaging, expanded.  Most end-products I see available for purchase (including maps) use a LOT of paper/plastic/ink in their delivery to consumers as well.  And if it is products that are being shipped to consumers?  Paper/plastic/ink is going into those envelopes or ??? as well.  Again, if you want a true "cost of paper vs. cost of electronic" discussion, you must account for these expenses.


3. "...it still represents a fraction of the cost to implement and maintain over time a system of devices, software and training for personnel to create a paperless workplace."  Again, a poorly formed argument.  The VAST majority of end-users aren't buying computers and paying for software/browsers so that they have the ability to view a printed map, as one example.  Most (all?) browsers I've ever seen are free to download...and give us access to more libraries of information in our homes than an average professional football-sized stadium of printed materials ever could.  And Adobe Acrobat Reader (as one example) is 100% free for anyone/everyone to download and use to their heart's content.  But if folks want to talk about costs of software and hardware, then I suppose one ought to also discuss the cost of hardware and/or software to run your typical paper mill.  Along with how much electricity and various forms of metals, plastics, and fossil fuels are consumed to produce, harvest, and transport said raw materials that end up being sold/shared as paper.


I'm not trying to be critical or pick on you.  It's okay to prefer paper maps!  I do too.  But these types of arguments are like Swiss Cheese when it comes to making a case to the general public for why they should give up modern conveniences and "go back to the good 'ol days" (of paper).  Easy to find/poke holes in the assertions you are making.  And that's from someone who has the same preferences you do for map viewing and delivery!  FWIW, I also own 30 acres of timber personally...and have first-hand experience working with loggers and mills related to the harvesting of trees and the eventual creation of paper, particle board, dimensional lumber, et al.  If folks want to crusade for print = good, electronic = bad, that'll maybe help my per-cord ROI the next time we have a few acres of trees ready to harvest!   :)  But it's a losing argument.


Arguing that paper "feels" better or often does a good job of giving one the better overall picture, in greater context, of an area...not to mention in areas without internet access and/or access to electricity?  Or arguing that the people who prefer print (me) will always be out there...and need to also have their needs met?  Great.  Arguing that paper is "cheaper" or even remotely close to being as affordable or environmentally friendly...not even bringing up the argument of the need for periodic "re-prints" and re-deliveries to keep said content current in people's hands (and all the fuels/packaging/________ which goes into that)?  Most people won't likely make it past the blog post title.  Because they'll think it is simply bias or spin from someone who directly benefits from the paper biz.  Which, even if not true, would completely cut the intended argument/assertion off at the knees before it ever gets rolling.


Keep fighting the good fight!  I would just recommend that you take a better tactical approach related to "print = good."  AND...versus "either/or."

Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC


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