This month we’ve had a lot of talk about saving paper around here, and the fact that this is Earth Week was only a minor factor.
The catalyst came from one of our trainers who noticed all the paper wasted at her school and implemented a plan to use less at her school and recycle the money into technology purchases.
Her program has worked very well in that one location but it got me thinking about how and whether the concept could be spread, especially in the paper-hungry environment of the central office location in which I work.
My doubt really has nothing to do with being green or saving money since many people want to do both. Or at least say they want to.
However, less printing requires major alterations to the way people communicate, something that doesn’t seem to be happening very quickly around here despite years of trying.
And I blame PDF for that. Or at least it gets part of the blame.
Although Adobe has some wonderful examples of multimedia brochures and interactive forms done in their electronic printing format, that’s not the way most people use it.
No, most PDF files are not created to make them easy to read on the screen. Instead they are simply digital reproductions of documents that were designed to be printed in the first place.
So, instead of me printing the paperwork and distributing it to the masses, I convert it into a PDF file and post it on the web or send it in an email. Each recipient then downloads the document.
And prints it. Well, maybe not everyone but enough that my saving paper is pretty much offset by someone else using it.
Examples of this phenomena are not hard to find. As I poke around in offices and schools I see printers spitting out PDF documents, along with emails and web pages, all of which could be read on a screen, bookmarked or stored electronically, and recalled when needed.
Instead they go onto paper which is then stored in binders (we LOVE binders around here!) and manila folders for later use. Or for later disposal when the file cases get full and clean out time rolls around.
Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating things again (who, me? :-) and it’s not entirely the fault of Adobe and PDF.
We can’t blame the technology when the larger problem is that we really have never done a good job of teaching people how to format material for the screen.
And we certainly need to do a lot more to help them understand how to use blogs, wikis, and all the other collaborative online tools to work on screen from start to finish.
I never bought into the idea of the paperless office that was pushed by computer manufacturers (and, strangely enough, by Xerox) in the 80’s.
But when I see all the printing generated around here, especially as people get ready for the opening of school training sessions and more in August and September, I just have to believe there’s a better way.