As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s worth spending a few minutes to think about some of the small steps we can all take to make a difference in the health of our planet. If you operate a business, non-profit, or healthcare organization, there’s one very important thing you can do that will help you achieve your sustainability goals: that is, to reduce your paper consumption.
For years, advocates for sustainability have asked us all to do our part in “reducing, reusing, and recycling.” The order of those three words is important. “Reduce” comes first because it takes priority. To the extent that we can reduce our consumption of natural resources and limit the amount of material that we put into landfills, we can address environmental problems affirmatively, simply by avoiding the need to produce, consume, and dispose of products to begin with. Re-using and recycling are nice, – but they simply aren’t as beneficial as avoiding excessive consumption in the first place.
For businesses, a good starting point for reducing consumption is to cut back on the number of documents that we print (and later discard!) We first started hearing about the “paperless office” over 30 years ago, as computer technology was in its infancy and much of the existing paper-based recordkeeping systems were starting to go digital. Ironically, though, the world is using more paper than ever before, as printing has become cheaper and easier, and as multifunction printers have proliferated.
Paper makes up as much as 25% of all the waste that goes into landfills. For many businesses, paper comprises almost half of the total waste produced. The result is more deforestation, air pollution, and of course the negative impact of solid waste disposal.
The good news, though, is that digital technologies provide an opportunity to change all that. Today, we can capture data more easily, store it securely and inexpensively, and access it from virtually anywhere. We can retain vast amounts of information, regardless of format, at costs that are virtually negligible. Not only does that reduce the amount of paper we must produce and dispose of; it also helps the planet in other ways.
For example: my company, WestFax, helps businesses to save money, streamline processes, and safeguard highly confidential information with cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant fax services. Our customers are using less paper; but they’re also using less ink. They’re not throwing away as many toner cartridges. And they’re no longer running outdated office machines that consume “phantom power”, – small amounts of electrical power that can add up to quite a lot of wasted energy when a dedicated device is left plugged in 24/7.
If you’re younger than 40, you might not remember those early fax machines that proliferated in the late 1980’s and 90’s, with all of their charming idiosyncrasies. Those devices printed incoming faxes on special thermal paper that came in long rolls and would spit out a multi-page document on one very long (and curly) piece of paper. Printouts were frequently left attached to the fax machine, waiting for someone to come by and retrieve them. That could leave confidential information exposed to anyone who happened by.
Today, fax technology has modernized and moved to the cloud. It’s fast, simple, and far more secure than most e-mail services. Financial institutions, healthcare providers, and government institutions use fax every day to send information reliably and securely; and to keep a digital record of what was sent, to whom, and when. Nowadays users can send and receive fax documents from a desktop computer or mobile phone, and they can access document history and confirmations through a secure online portal.
This is a great example of how technology can create a win-win-win situation. (Yes, that’s 3 “wins”!) My company’s cloud-based fax technology makes life easier and more convenient, it lowers costs, and it helps our customers achieve their sustainability goals.
WestFax is proud of our leadership position in cloud-based fax technology, and we’re proud to be helping our customers in healthcare organizations, financial services companies, non-profits, and small businesses in their quest to make the world a better, more sustainable place. On behalf of everyone at WestFax, I wish you a very happy (and sustainable) Earth Day!