Online versus Paper

Paperonline: a website about paper.

At first glance, that may seem to be a little ironic - after all, aren't advances in online technology and electronic media systematically reducing our need for paper?

Well, no, in fact. consistently as the IT revolution has gathered pace. In today's information age paper continues to be the main tool for spreading information, culture and knowledge.

Far from being endangered by the arrival of the new information technologies, paper has become an indispensable complement to them and a symbiotic relationship has developed.

This underlines the fact that although paper and IT products do share certain traits, they are in reality two distinct entities, like apples and oranges, and any attempts to compare them is a rather futile exercise.

A real irony in the paper/online relationship is the message which ruefully ends many of our email communications - the one which asks us to "please consider the environmental consequences when printing this email".

Although the intention is laudable, such messages actually make us less environmentally aware. They make the recipient feel guilty about using paper, which is a biodegradable, recyclable and amazing natural resource, whilst making the sender feel environmentally responsible by implicitly suggesting that it is harmless to send information in the virtual world.

Rather than target one media over another - paper versus online - we need to target waste regardless of the source. An unnecessary email or google search is as real a problem from an environmental perspective, as the much maligned hard copy email, which can at least be recycled.

The information age is here to stay and it is bringing about a high speed and interconnected world. It also needs to speed up its recognition of its growing detrimental impact on the environment.

A shared objective of both the paper and IT industries is to seek to continually reduce environmental impacts, although, only paper can be an active part of the solution.

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