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Google Greenwash: 'Go Paperless' Pact –Michelson

January 2013

Here we go again. Obviously, Google didn't hear about all the negative reaction to Toshiba America's ill-conceived "National No-Print Day" campaign that encouraged people and companies not to print or copy anything last Oct. 23. Fortunately, in response to outrage from the printing, paper, forestry and publishing industries, Toshiba pulled the plug.

Now, Google has launched a "Go Paperless in 2013" campaign with some Internet-based U.S. companies, including Hello-fax, an online fax service; Manilla, an online bill management service; HelloSign, an e-signature service; Expensify, an online expense reporting service; Xero, an online business accounting service; and Fujitsu, maker of the ScanSnap scanner.

Visit www.paperless2013.org and you'll find a environmentally themed home page with an image of green trees, as well as factoids how the average U.S. office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper annually and how the amount of paper recovered for recycling averaged 334 pounds per American. People can sign up by pledging to go paperless in 2013, and Google indicates the Paperless Coalition has planned an e-mail newsletter and other yet-unnamed activities.

Give me a break! Thankfully, Two Sides, the graphic communication value chain advocacy, caught wind of the new marketing campaign and lodged a formal complaint with Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO of Google. "...This new initiative is clearly another example of a self-interested organization using an environmentally focused marketing campaign to promote its services while ignoring its own impact upon the environment." Two Sides chastises Google's own environmental footprint, including the enormous amounts of energy needed to power data centers, Google searches, YouTube videos and Gmail accounts.

And let's not forget that e-waste is the fastest growing component of the municipal solid waste stream. Conversely, responsibly managed forests used for paper are highly sustainable, and much of the energy used to produce pulp and paper originates from renewable biomass.

Unlike Toshiba's "No-Print Day" debacle, we can't threaten to boycott Google, and most of the Paperless Coalition's other members are not exactly household names. But, I do encourage everyone in the graphic arts to sign up at www.paperless2013.org. The initiative plans to promote itself through social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Using these mediums to attack the campaign at a grassroots level will hopefully help Google "see the forest for the trees."


 

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