These Come From Trees Sticker

These Come From Trees Sticker
This is the sticker we're hoping can save a couple hundred thousand trees a year. Amazing how the right message at the right time can make the difference.

Quick Facts about "These Come From Trees"

Saturday, March 10, 2007

These ALSO come from trees! Part trois

I just started a new job at VMware, a big software company. I now work in a cube-land, with lots of knowledge workers typing away on their machines, and, printing stuff out on their printers, and copying lots of copies.

Well, this last week has been somewhat of an eye-opener. When I was a consultant, I used an HP deskjet printer for all my printing needs, which weren't a whole helluva lot, but not zero either. But what was important there was that it was Pete paying for those spendy little inkjet cartridges. As a result, you think twice before hitting the "Print" button on that 50 page PDF document.

That dynamic changes when you know that your workstation is mapped to a burly Toshiba copier that can print that 50 page report in the flash of an eye--all on someone else's dime...

The other day, my friend Erin, who also works at VMware noticed a stack of "These Come From Trees" stickers on my desk, and pointed out, "Hey, we should put those on the copiers too." I thought it was a really good point, and bore looking into.

I'm a little conflicted about it, because this project was initially aimed at what I like to call "unintentional waste" of paper resources, like with napkins at fast food restaurants, and paper towels in public restrooms. That is, where people accidentally use too much, just because they're not really paying attention. The goal of this project has never been to tell people to not use resources that they feel they need. That might be someone else's project, like projects that work to get people to stop driving SUVs, or what have you, but it's beyond the aim of this project.

I'm not 100% sure if this idea of discouraging "unintentional waste" applies to business copying and printing to the same extent. I mean, a lot of the stuff that gets printed is very important, and helps the company make money--if it didn't, they wouldn't have printers and copiers.

And whereas I could sit and watch nearly every group of people at In N Out throw out multiple clean napkins, or sit in the bathroom (hidden in a stall!), listening to how many paper towels were pulled per hand-wash (they make a "shoonk! shoonk! shoonk!" sound as they are yanked out of the holder! It ended up averaging like three and a half towels--most people used two, three, or four but occasionally you'd here someone, literally, pulling ten in succession. It was fascinating--but this is for a separate post), it's harder to know the size of the opportunity for reduction in a business printing / copying context.

But at the same time I have to feel that a lot of the time big ol' powerpoint decks get printed out, placed on a conference table "just in case" attendees, who have been emailed that same deck, want a paper copy right there because they didn't bring their laptop. Or big ol' PDF reports getting printed out for "reading later" but ultimately just get dumped. So while I know the opportunity for reduction is non-zero, I don't know how big it is. Haven't done the homework yet.

Also, I wonder to what extent this would have an impact? I tested the initial "These Come From Trees" sticker in a coffee shop bathroom, measuring impact on paper towels. But this is different. Maybe I should do a test at VMware and report back.

What do you guys think? I suppose this is kinda the goal of this being an community driven, "open source" guerrilla public service announcment. Ultimately, it relies on the judgment of those using the sticker to be wise about where to deploy them to get the point across, but without damaging the cause. I'm sure if we all just make sure to be thoughtful about it, we'll make the right move.


Guy said...

Personally I think putting the stickers on copiers in offices is a good idea. If someone genuinely needs what they print out they would read the message on the sticker, and think nice idea, but I really needed this document. At least from now on they will perhaps think before hitting 'print', and when it comes to disposing of the said document they could make sure it goes in the recycling bin, and if there isn't a recycling bin they make sure the office manager sorts one out. They could also get the office manager to purchase paper supplies from sustainable sources etc.

The point really I guess is just to 'think' full stop. Any additional awareness, other than the initial 'don't use more than you need' is still a good result. Being environmentally aware needs to be front of mind for it to be instinctive. So often I print a document first (having read a couple of paragraphs on screen) only to find it's not as relevant as I first thought. As you mention earlier, I need a sticker on my monitor – that way I can remind myself to read a little further before printing, or better still turn it into a PDF!

Pete Kazanjy said...

Your comment about getting people to "think" is spot on, Guy.

Sometimes when people hear about this project, they think that its goal is to tell people not to use paper, or to make them feel bad about it, or whatever.

That's not it at all. It's simply to remind us to evaluate. Throw a couple brain cycles at it, since, and I know this is true of me, so often we get on auto-pilot, and need a little extra help to snap out of it, whether on the road, in the office, or at In N Out!

Anonymous said...

My experience with clients testing reports and other printouts (I'm a database consultant) is that the faster their printer, the more likely they are to say "I'll just print out a batch of these", even after I've tried to help them print preview or generate a pdf. Your stickers belong on both printers and copiers. It's not my place as a consultant to lecture my clients, so I'd appreciate a little guerrilla marketing in this area.

Shroom said...

At first, I was a bit sceptical (printing stickers to save paper? wtf?) but I realise that if everything stated on this blog is true, than that's a clever and worthy way to prevent excessive use of paper. I'll think twice before printing that six-page essay...

Anonymous said...

I believe there is a definite chance to change the amount of paper consumed by hardcopy .pdf's or other documents printed in the corporate office environment.

I'm a Jr Super User for a large swedish home furtinture company and at my job we've asked our users to print duplex in other words.. use both sides of the paper. We've also provoked a "do you really need to print this?" atmosphere.

This atmosphere challenges the user to think wether or not having a physical copy is necessary. Is it a need, or a nice to have?

Obviously a paperless corporate environment is far-out-reach at least for now, but it's something worth working towards.

Good luck with your ideas, and cause.

Lubna said...

I just came across your though provoking blog. All our emails carry the standard line: please do not print this email unless absoultely necessary. Further, we also print on both sides of the paper. But yes, paper napkins, I don't think we have thought of that angle as yes.

Anonymous said...



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