zero waste

Going paperless is not as easy as it sounds

I’ve talked in the past about my love of bullet journaling and scrapbooking. It’s similar to my love for physical books. There’s something alluring in being able to hold a physical paper and write down things with a nice pen. I doubt I will ever truly eliminate paperback novels from my library, as reading things on my phone just isn’t the same for long-form fiction. And no matter what productivity system I end up using twenty years from now, I’m relatively certain it will contain some sort of analog system within. Most likely I’ll still be using my trusted bullet journal.

It doesn’t mean I’m not questioning my choices every once in a while. The corporation I work at is pushing the digital approach to all the things pretty hard, using the “sustainable” argument as one of the reasons behind it. Going paperless is one of the admin priorities I’m faced with, and I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty unhappy about it.

Which is a bit ironic, given that I’m a millennial and I should embrace all things digital. But there are aspects of this whole paperless approach that I struggle with.

The question of sustainability

The suspicious part of me questions if going paperless is really that much more sustainable. I mean there are parts of the world where trees are being cut down at an alarming rate, but much more of them are being cut down to make space for cattle. That’s not to say the paper industry isn’t contributing to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions. They’re not completely innocent.

But at the same time, the paper industry is definitely more sustainable than other industries. There’s forest certification, which ensures wood comes from well-managed forests. There are tree planting initiatives (between 2005 and 2015, European forests grew by an area the size of Switzerland).

Not to mention the fact that paper recycling is on point. 65% of the paper in the US was recycled in 2012 and Wikipedia claims that in 2014 the paper recycling rate in Europe was over 71%.

Add to that the fact that wood is one of the few truly sustainable sources and I’m left with a lot of doubt. Especially since there haven’t been a lot of studies done (if any) on how sustainable digital is. I mean e-waste is a thing and so I can’t really divorce the carbon footprint of electronics from the advantages of digital… I guess we’ll still need to wait to learn the truth of the sustainability of digital goods.

My brain has been taught differently

Sustainability aside, I’m one of the older millennials and so when I was younger, the Internet was just starting out and there were no smartphones just yet. When I was learning at school, I was learning to process the information on paper. And I’m not only talking about textbooks and books in general as the source of all the information. I was taking notes, and highlighting them and then rewriting the notes while I was studying for a test.

It took me ages to adopt a digital to-do list and task management systems. Years of missteps and years of me coming back to the good old paper to-do list in a paper planner…

What about you? How paperless are you? Do you believe paper is sustainable or not? Should we continue to push for a paperless society? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

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