Paper in the modern electronic world

From the ancient Egyptians’ papyrus to modern scrapbookers’ detailed pages, paper has been an immensely important tool for people. There have been a multitude of ways to create paper, with the most common being the mass destruction of forested land. The advent of handheld devices like the Kindle promises to leave paper by the wayside, resulting in a more environmentally conscious world.

In the early 2000’s, the paperless office was an often discussed idea.  A lot of jobs required paper, but people imagined that trees and time could be saved by digital alternatives. It’s only recently, however, that the paperless office is moving towards realization. With Kindles and iPads and Android Phones and other devices that are mobile enough to replace paper, the paperless office is inching closer and closer to reality.

It’s not just mobile devices that lead to lower use of paper. Technology in other areas is also helping reduce the usage of paper. Many hydro-electric, telephone, and utility companies now offer a paperless billing feature, allowing customers to check their balance online. Banks are using online bill payments and other similar measures to cut down paper usage. Recently, restaurants have started using smartphones and iPods and similar devices to take orders and alert the kitchen – lowering the use of paper in yet another area.

Perhaps most interesting is how traditionally paper-dependent businesses, such as book and magazine publishers, are adapting to the new world and moving towards much lower use of paper. Devices such as the Kindle have hugely impacted the popularity of reading among all age groups. Publishers have begun to respond to these changes – providing Kindle and Tablet versions of their publications, providing ebooks, and even moving to more modern publishing paradigms.

The use of paper is slowly and very steadily being reduced.

While there are ups and downs to recent technological advancements, the environmental benefits of a paperless world are numerous. Less paper means more trees which means more oxygen and also bigger habitats for wild animals. The idea of a paperless world and all the talk of things like global warming has inspired many industries to review and re-imagine their environmental impact. From solar energy to low-flow toilets, the world might actually be changing for the better.

Paper itself has hardly been taken out of the world completely and there is some debate as to whether or not it should be. Regardless, in the short-term, improvements to the environment can be seen. There simply are more trees being left to grow. As more and more people shift to ebooks from dead-tree books and to mobile devices from thick bundles of printouts – it is making our Earth a healthier and happier place to live.

Here are a few other blogs discussing paper in our electronic world (with an emphasis on the impact of ebooks and Kindle):

On The Environmental Blog and Eco-Libris, the benefits of paper books versus eBooks are discussed.

The New York Times talks about how the paperless world created by Kindle has affected universities.