Patricia Calkins
Xerox global vice president of Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability

We’ve all seen the popular “Please consider the environment before printing this email” tag .The implied call to action is “save a tree, please don’t print.” Fairly straightforward, right?  Not so fast.

If you consistently turn to digital media technology instead of printing, you may be doing more harm than good. Printing is neither good nor bad. It’s how you print that’s important. Those of you, who say “Well, I don’t print; I archive my documents electronically,” think again. Digital media technology uses coal fired plants, which have been linked to global warming and deforestation.

In truth, digital and hard copy documents should coexist.  The key is thinking about how you use your available resources from beginning to end.  When using paper, make two-sided prints, print multiple images per page, and print only the quantity you need. If collaboration is a component of a document’s value, cut back the time and energy spent on manual paper-based processes by using workflow management systems and collaboration tools, like DocuShare.  Rather than having copies on multiple computers and servers; using collaborative tools reduces energy consumption by ensuring that a digital document is stored in a centralized location.

This “life-cycle approach” to considering the environment can be applied all over the place. For example, many of us use compact light bulbs because of the energy efficiency and cost savings. But these bulbs contain mercury. If you fail to properly discard the bulbs, you cancel out the environmental benefits by creating the possibility that mercury be released into our water and earth.

So the next time you’re asked to “consider” the environment, do just that—the effort is worth its weight in gold.