Environmental consciousness has become a mainstream idea over the past decade or so, and for a lot of people, a big part of this is centered around reducing paper use and implementing digital alternatives. The goal is to save trees and promote green workplaces through the use of technology. 

Paperless is not as green as many think
However, paper production is not actually as harmful as the tech industry might have you believe. In fact, paper producers replenish their resources by planting massive numbers of trees each year to curb deforestation. Andrea Becker of Demand Media reported that between 1990 and 2010, about 19 million acres of forested land were added in the U.S. 

Another truth that technology developers like to ignore is the sheer volume of energy that data servers require to function. If your office has server hardware, it's causing more harm to the environment – and your energy bills – than paper usage might. If you subscribe to cloud solutions, you're lowering your own output, but contributing to the massive levels of energy that mega data centers consume. 

Alternative strategies to reduce carbon emissions in the office
Paperless certainly looks good on… paper.  But in practice, the energy consumption required to power computers and data servers is more detrimental to the environment than using recyclable paper. So what are some other ways that businesses can make their workplaces more eco-friendly?

Tessa Schreiner wrote for the Tallahassee Democrat that implementing small changes to daily routines can have a big effect. For example, she recommended that bringing lunch in reusable containers, placing your computer in sleep mode when you are away and using the thermostat efficiently can lead to less energy use and lower costs. She also suggested purchasing eco-friendly office materials – recycled paper, cleaning supplies, etc. 

On an individual level, Schreiner said that carpooling, biking or taking public transportation to work are all ways to live a more green lifestyle. Executives can offer incentives to employees who commute to work in an eco-friendly manner, such as partially absorbing fares or offering bicycle parking. 

In terms of the big picture, TrainingZONE blogger James Timpson advised that there are a variety of investments companies can make in technology and other eco-friendly office initiatives. {He noted that installing an air curtain can help insulate the office, trapping in heat in the winter and cool air in the summer and reducing the need for air conditioning. Motion sensors cut down on light usage, and can greatly increase efficiency when combined with low-energy bulbs. 

Timpson also pointed out that automatic water taps help to eliminate waste. This can reduce your monthly utility bill and also benefit the environment, as offices typically use large amounts of water. Implementing widespread recycling initiatives around the workplace can also encourage employees to be judicious in disposing of drink bottles, packaging, paper or other commonly used resources. 

In addition, the author specified that decreasing travel frequency and duration can assist in furthering your environmental campaign, according to the source. Business travel is often superfluous, especially in the era of video conferencing used by companies throughout the world. And, since technology allows people to communicate instantly from remote locations, encouraging employees to work from home can eliminate commuting-related carbon emissions, as well as expenses. 

There are many ways to support eco-friendly initiatives without ditching paper in the workplace. The commodity is still a necessity in most offices, and eliminating it does not even guarantee a reduction in energy usage, since technology consumes so much power. Instead of going paperless, decision-makers would be better served by introducing simple yet effective eco-friendly solutions to employees and to investing in some energy-saving resources.