Thomas Counsell from the Institute for Manufacturing has stated that up to 2 percent of overall greenhouse gases are caused by paper consumption. The biggest fraction of energy used in paper consumption may be traced to the creation and disposal of printer paper. And although the move to iPads, smart phones and other mobile gadgets may seem to imply that paper consumption has fallen as digitalization has increased, the truth is exactly the opposite. Over the last ten years, paper consumption has risen steadily. If you worry about deforestation and rising carbon dioxide levels, you may be interested to learn about how document scanning and document imaging can help offset the environmental costs of printing documents.
Introducing Document Scanning and Document Imaging
Document scanning and document imaging are similar in that they both describe procedures to convert paper documents to digital form. Typically, a document imaging and scanning company begins by collecting company documents that are slated to be scanned. Invoices, client files, HR files and contracts are just a few of the types of documents often included in document scanning and imaging contracts. After removing staples and paper clips, the document scanning company scans every document, converting it to JPEG, PDF or whatever format is most convenient to the client.
Many document imaging and scanning companies also offer OCR (Optical Character Recognition) processing, which translates hard-copy documents into editable formats. In addition to being able to digitally manipulate and store documents that were previously only available in physical form, OCR also allows digital documents to be searched by key terms. Indexing, quality control, storage and shredding are the last steps in the document scanning process.
Typically, business leaders are interested in the disaster recovery aspects of document scanning and imaging. With electronic backups of your most important files, it’s easier to get back online following an emergency. (Note: This assumes that your digital storage solutions are also impervious to local disasters. So instead of placing all digital copies of scanned documents on local servers, which could easily be damaged by flood or earthquake, it would be better to store important data on remote servers, perhaps accessible through the cloud.)
However, the environmental benefits of document scanning and imaging are also significant. The most earth-friendly option is to go entirely paperless once your old documents are converted to digital files. Obviously, going paperless greatly reduces the amount of ink and paper your organization requires.
But document scanning and imaging is good for the environment even if you don’t completely eliminate printing from your operations. There are many examples of how printing may be reduced if a company has a strong document imaging process. For instance, imagine your employee handbook; it’s probably a hefty document that’s more than fifty pages in length. With document imaging, rather than printing off a new copy of the handbook every time one is needed, you can simply post the digital copy of your handbook on the company server, allowing employees to refer to it at any time.
Here are a few more specific ways lowering printing rates via document scanning can help save the planet:
Decreased ink usage. The ink used in InkJet and LaserJet printers is extremely toxic. It’s not easy to remove from paper during the recycling process, either. Having a document scanning procedure in place will reduce or abolish your company’s use of printer ink. Going paperless eliminates the need to use any toxic printer ink at all.
Lowered paper usage. It’s happened to even the most eco-conscious among us: printing a useless page, with only one or two unimportant lines. Indeed, the folks over at ThinkBeforePrinting.org estimate that more than 50 percent of printed pages are never reviewed, mainly due to such printing errors. Document imaging helps reduce the amount of paper your company uses. (Hint: If those nearly blank pages really frustrate you, try contracting with a company like GreenPrint, which offers various tools for monitoring and reducing printing rates.)
Diminished energy bills. Less printing means less energy will be required to run your printers. This may not seem like much, but it would make a big difference if every American company decreased the amount of energy dedicated to printers.
Overall, document scanning and imaging is smart from both business continuity and environmental perspectives.
[ Photo by: Dan4th, via CC License ]