Google Fumbles with “Go Paperless in 2013”

The printing industry’s response to Google’s “Go Paperless in 2013” initiative was swift and excoriating. The big G should have taken a hint from Toshiba, whose “National No Print Day” campaign was shouted down and almost immediately withdrawn. Others in the “paper kills trees” contingent should have warned Google: “If you attack paper, the printers will come for you…run!”

And come for them they did. Open letters to Google CEO Eric Schmidt were published by Printing Industries of America CEO Michael Makin as well as both the US and UK leaders of Two Sides. The paper/print blogosphere was in an uproar. Karen Well of IWCO Direct suggested, “It might be time for Google to search ‘definition of greenwashing’.” Right on!

Google touted its program as: “A campaign to remove the need for paper from ‘paperwork’.” It went on to point out that “In 2010, the amount of paper recovered for recycling averaged 334 pounds for each person living in the US, according to the American Forest & Paper Association.”

Are we to believe that recycling is a bad thing? The G-men must live on a different planet because they clearly don’t care about this one. They completely ignore the fact that heavy metals and petroleum-based materials used to manufacture electronic devices are rarely reclaimed or recycled. Most of that poison ends up in landfills. They don’t address the massive amounts of electricity that must be generated to power banks of servers and all of our devices that access paperless services.

If the company is truly concerned about the environment, it should take a look in the mirror. How about starting an initiative to curb e-waste? Now, that would provide a significant environmental benefit; far better than just cutting back on the use of paper, which is a completely renewable resource.

Now, let’s not be nave. “Go Paperless in 2013” is not really an environmental program; it’s a marketing campaign designed to sell the products offered by Google’s paid sponsors. And yes, I know that everyone already uses online transactions—even me. All I’m saying is that there are better ways to market those services than to obfuscate paper’s impact on the environment.

I hope that anyone who is fool enough to try this tactic in the future will be blown out of the water by the paper lovers before they know what has hit them. In the meantime, let’s all do our part to educate others about the simple fact that paper—and print—are earth-friendly and should be embraced. I think I’ll go hug my magazine now.

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