Looking beyond the often very simplistic arguments of global warming and climate change disputants, the practicality of going fully paperless should come under as much consideration as its realistic possibility. Is it really possible to go fully paperless and is it practical? Does a world completely free of paper really have the positive environmental impact that it is increasingly made out to have?
Counting the Environmental Impact of the Alternatives
Taking a very basic and perhaps subjectively relevant example into account, if you think about the power it takes to manufacture, deliver, install and maintain the servers and telecommunications infrastructure responsible for delivering the data you decide to upload to your cloud storage account, as opposed to printing it on paper, a very strong argument points towards paper being a little bit more environmentally friendlier. The same goes for posting a letter versus sending an email.
The truth is that while paper still has a little bit less of an environmental impact than its electronic alternatives, largely due to the fact that it can be recycled, the rate at which electronics are becoming more and more enviro-friendly shows a lot of promise. So it’s only a matter of time before the numbers fall in favour of going paperless, but for now it can be safely said that going paperless isn’t entirely better on the environment than using paper.
What about Practicality?
Let’s face it — the good old pen and paper combo will probably never completely go away, even if it’s as a last resort or just to jot down quick notes in a manner that bypasses the need to first power up your electronic device just so that you can type in a few notes. This is evident in some of the most progressive and forward-looking educational organisations, one of whose major goals is to equip learners with more than adequate learning skills to thrive in the fast changing world we’re now living in. The championed ability in children to learn independently does not solely refer to those children being able to learn by themselves, without the authoritative commands of their educators, but also refers to being able to use minimal tools, like a mere pen and paper, to put into practice and expand on what they learn. It’s perhaps always better if you’ve written it down in your own hand-writing because you just learn better in that way, so for those and many other reasons, going fully paperless isn’t all too practical.
So should you go fully paperless then, or even just attempt to do so? If you really tried, you could probably manage, but taking into account the intended impact going paperless has on the environment, and also taking into account its actual impact and its practicality, your desire to be more green by going paperless should rather have you seeking to strike a balance. Go paperless where you can, but you probably don’t want to go fully paperless because in some instances paper remains less impactful on the environment than the alternatives. Things will probably change in favour of going fully paperless in the very near future, so this discussion might just be worth revisiting sooner rather than later.