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.
Quick Facts about "These Come From Trees"
- Check out our "welcome post" to learn about what inspired this project.
- Eco-minded Citizens: See what you can do with These Come From Trees!
- K-12 Schools, check out our Education Challenge
- Hundreds of Businesses Using These Come From Trees Stickers
- Proven up to 29% paper use reduction
- A single "These Come From Trees" sticker can save around a tree's worth of paper, every year
- More than 50,000 stickers distributed since 3/07
- Laminated stickers hold up to washing.
- A typical fast food restaurant with two bathrooms can use up to 2000 pounds of paper towels a year
- The average coffee shop uses 1000 pounds of paper towels a year
- A single tree produces around 100 pounds of paper
- Roughly 50,000 fast food restaurants in the US
- 200,000 gas stations in the US
- 14,000 McDonalds' in the US
- 10,000 Starbucks in the US