If pine trees had aspirations, no doubt they would all want to be Christmas trees adorned with decorations and standing as the focal point for holiday spirit.
Even though most pine trees in the U.S. are planted for paper, they are still giving us a great service because all forests absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere. However the production of paper uses large amounts of water, bleaching agents and fossil fuels for a product that is often used once and discarded. Or when it is not thrown away, it is taking up space in file cabinets and warehouses in the form of old records, duplicate forms, outdated marketing materials, paid invoices and past receipts.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average office goes through 10,000 sheets of paper per year. Reducing paper use from one office would provide an environmental benefit equivalent to a 0.75 acre pine forest absorbing carbon for a year. An increasing number of companies are going paperless as a savvy business decision to reduce costs, improve security and help the environment.
Here are the top five reasons to go paperless. As a bonus, we've included five tips to help you make the transition.
Top five reasons to go paperless
- Saves time. With a paperless filing system, searching through thousands of files becomes as easy as "Ctrl + F." Of course there is a learning curve, but the Small Business Administration (SBA) suggests that going paperless increases the productivity, functionality and efficiency of an office.
- Saves money. A paperless office obviously buys less paper, saving an average of almost $80 per employee, according to the EPA. But less obvious is the far more significant savings in ink, toner, postage, files storage space, trips to the post office and time spent shredding old files or searching for misfiled documents.
- Saves space. Let's face it. Bulky file cabinets are obsolete. A whole cabinet of contents can be condensed into two gigabytes of neatly organized files on a hard drive. Old file rooms can become new offices.
- Improves security. Storing and backing up documents on the cloud (online) eliminates the need to carry sensitive papers out of the office. Rigorous safeguards built into back-up systems ensure data is not lost through natural disaster or accident, either.
- Boosts company image. Considering that a one terabyte hard drive could possibly save 50,000 trees and that a recent Harris Interactive survey found an increasing number of Americans consider a business's environmental track record in their purchasing decisions, going paperless may be an ideal way to improve your business image and gain more customers.
Top five tips to create a paperless office
- Evaluate the required effort. A small business could convert to paperless after just one weekend's effort. Larger companies may need to hire an outside firm to implement a paperless system. This will involve upfront investment before any savings can be realized.
- Less than 100 percent is OK. Not every document can be scanned and shredded; some legal documents have retention requirements, and not every customer is going to accept a digital invoice anyway. Your paper system can be phased out over time.
- Sort, scan and shred. Sort files first so you only scan documents relevant to current operations. Many documents, especially financials, are already stored electronically by accounting systems and banks, so paper copies don't need to be kept.
- Use the technology. It's never been easier or cheaper to go paperless. Free online resources like Google Docs and Dropbox make it easy to store and back up files on the cloud. Check out Paperless2013.org for companies that provide online accounting, HR, e-signature, payroll, faxing, scanning and bill-pay software, too.
- Engage customers and employees. Informing customers you are going paperless is more than good publicity. Customers who buy into your effort can help accelerate the process. And engaging employees in finding solutions and workarounds when problems inevitably appear will make implementation that much smoother.
This story was featured in the Nov. 2013 newsletter