Paperless 2013- Smoke and Mirrors?

Today I’m writing in response to a post on the website Environmental Leader (http://www.environmentalleader.com/2013/01/09/google-is-greenwashing-paper-industry-claims/) and the Paperless 2013 Campaign.

I have to say that I 100% support any robust discussion that not only makes us think about the environment but encourages us all to take action. While I’m in business I whole heartedly support proactive moves in creating positive outcomes that help to produce an environmentally friendly and sustainable business model that will assist in creating a better future for both ourselves but more so for our future generations. I have to agree with others who have posted their thoughts that at the moment it seems it is difficult balancing the world’s delicate economy and the even-more pressing (excuse the pun) delicate environment with no easy solutions it appears in immediate sight. However, I am disappointed in what seems to be to be an article that seems to me is skewed towards supporting Google’s and other “online” providers “Paperless 2013 Campaign”. In my opinion it is at least a bit of a pot calling the kettle black.

As you may know we are a cross-media marketing promoter and provider in which we promote both online and offline marketing tools and we do ourselves use Google’s, Constant Contact’s and Xero’s excellent solutions to help us promote and run our business. I also have a young family to think of and as a result while trying to ensure they are looked after financially I do believe in trying to continually develop and achieve a balanced approach to creating an environmentally sustainable business into the future. However as others have mentioned to me in discussions and in various posts, I have to agree that it seems that e-waste is unfortunately one of “our” fastest growing environmental challenges that we face due to “our” obsession with technology, for better or for worse, and the need to produce and update items like TV’s, phones, tablets and computers etc. in what seems to now be periods of even every 9 months. No sooner have we purchased what appeared to be the latest gadget but almost the next day the new version is coming out, come on let’s just look at mobile / cell phones / tablets and how frequently a new model is being released… I am certainly not advocating that the paper and print industry does not have its’ own challenges and does need to continually look for opportunities to become truly green with both production and recycling with at least a truly zero environmental impact. However as Mary Beth from Girls Who Print rightfully points out “to start with, because paper GROWS trees. More trees are planted than harvested for paper. Additionally, these forests, intentionally planted as a sustainable crop (like wheat for bread) stand for DECADES before being harvested. Paper is also 100% recyclable, unlike the e-waste created by all our computers, servers and cloud-based services. ” (http://girlswhoprint.blogspot.com.au/2013/01/sighagain.html) I personally had an experience of the challenge of e-waste recently when I was doing a spring clean a few weeks ago of our home, the shed and the yard and I had to go to the tip as a result, my green waste had a recycling section, my cardboard and paper products had a recycling section, but my e-waste went to land fill in this particular tip? Anyone seen the movie Wall-E? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHH3iSeDBLo) Is it a crystal ball into the future? I know e-waste reduction solutions are being worked on, but I don’t think at this stage the electronics world is on par with the paper and print industry. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/toxics/electronics/ I think in a lot of parts of society including business too quickly we try to shift the focus and/ or the blame in another direction. Now while I love the tools they provide and we do use them, how about the team at Google and other “online” solution providers before throwing stones in a glass house be good world citizens and sort out their own backyards first. Start practicing what they preach, by both investing in, and working on delivering truly sustainable solutions for their own and third party products that are required to utilise their services. Because becoming a paperless office, or even popping solar panels on the roof if they choose too, does not cut it! How about they work on sustainable ways for producing and reducing their own e-waste created and educating the public and their consumers about the challenges of e-waste and how we can deal with it responsibly. Although I do love the irony with Google promoting a “Paperless 2013” over the years I have received more than several direct mail campaigns from Google themselves who are one of the principal companies pushing the Paperless 2013 encouraging me to start an online Adwords campaign with a voucher card attached but with the condition that I must be a new account… apart from the fact that some of the Direct Mailers I received were in my opinion somewhat poorly executed (not even a QR code linking me to a pURL encouraging me to shift offline to online) when it comes to the power of direct and personalised marketing, the biggest kicker is that I have had an Adwords account for several years, so they themselves appear that they cannot even find the time to cleanse their own database and reduce unnecessary paper waste let alone the cost to them to run a worldwide campaign of this nature…. While it can certainly be easier said than done, let’s firstly look internally (in our own respective industries) at solving our own industry environmental challenges and then opportunities to try and work together with other related industries in creating environmentally and economically sustainable business and marketing solutions. Then once we have exhausted all possible and plausible options and avenues in developing ways to neutralise any negative impact on the environment, and if there isn’t any, we then need to address and make some really tough decisions. Let’s make a start by saying “2013 the year of working towards improving and engaging environmentally sustainable marketing tools and opportunities”. Just a thought, please let us know yours. Cheers Tom Dickson.

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