Green Business Innovation : Offices can now print on a E-paper and save forest.

30 May


Architects typically work with large-format drawings on 24 by 36-inch or larger paper. Most architectural firms have their own large-format printers or plotters to print and copy computer-generated drawings. Architects and construction houses waste a lot of paper. Even when they design a LEED building. Because the way most of them work is not sustainable at all, this I covered in my earlier article, Green Buildings – How most of them are really made, the inside story.

The reason for this is simple. The corporates which run these architectural houses are mostly developers who have become so callused by the “system” which runs India, that they have lost the perspective of good and bad. For most of them Sustainability is another “task” and “Green norms” are an impediment which they need to give a lip service too. Thus one would see, even for a small correction or revision, entire design sheets are printed, minimum 3 prints of size A -Zero.

Since trees come in all different sizes, it is difficult to estimate how much paper comes from one tree, however according to one paper manufacturer, a cord of wood measuring 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet produces nearly 90,000 sheets paper. Taking the last census report, India’s total population was around 1,20,00,00,000. If every Indian save one sheet of paper a day approximately 15,000 Trees can be saved. If 15,000 Trees can be saved just by not wasting one sheet of paper a day, imagine of how many trees can be saved if we become more  prudent in our approach.

Let us consider some interesting facts which I have gathered from various sources –

1. Consider this: according to the state government of Australia, over 600,000 tonnes of paper and cardboard are sent to landfill in NSW every year. Australians as a whole use 210,000 tonnes of office paper each year – and much of this is not from recycled sources but from virgin forests.

2. In the USA The average student uses about 11 sheets of paper per day. The school year goes on average 180 days so this would equal to 23,760 sheets for 12 years.

3. A Seattle based study found that businesses typically throw away about half of all documents within 24 hours of printing. In fact, about 170 tons of paper is sent to Seattle’s landfills each day from Seattle businesses.

For every dollar spent on printing documents, companies typically incur $6 in handling and distribution costs, according to a Xerox study.

Over the course of a year Seattle paper waste contributes about 9,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the same as the emissions from consuming 972,000 gallons of gasoline. 

This is a study by Xerox of one American city, in India and rest of the developing world we do not have such studies done or reports published. Simply because we do not think this as a problem which needs urgent and immediate attention.

But such problems can not be defined locally any more. The devastation in Japan  a year back has come to haunt the American West coast in form of  Billion ton of debris. Similarly the decimation of rain forests for pulp & paper industry would lead to unprecedented challenges more severe than what we have experienced till date and it would not be their locally. This is known to all, yet we fail to arrest easily achievable targets, such as reduction on dependence on Paper. We all know by now that it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to have a paperless office/school . But how much paper do we consume unnecessarily? It is no more possible to contain the problem by raising ones personal bar as to when one needs a paper copy of something from the computer. Strong legislation are required which would make it near mandatory that unless you′re printing something super important,(which can be defined and refined on a weekly/monthly basis by each corporation) one must  save ink and paper by tracking changes in electronic documents.

To make this legislation work, one must however understand the fundamental barrier. We still like to hold up a piece of paper in our hand and look at it from time to time, jot notes directly at the margins, rather than type for every little corrections. Moreover, for architects and other engineering professionals, physically scanning the page from top to bottom, is more sure-fire way to spot  an error than scrolling a large drawing and zooming in and out of it. It simply does not work ! I know that from personal experience. So how does one adhere to reduction of paper use and not face the cumbersome process of electronic tracking on a small computer screen ?

The answer lies in using something with is instantly portable, transferable, editable and yet not a traditional paper. E-Paper ! Yes, something which was born in the 1970’s has matured enough to be taken seriously. The first flexible EPD for consumers could be available in Europe in 2012 itself.

This is one of the spectacular proof that, it is the Business and Industry which will finally be the torch bearers of abatement to Climate Change and Global Warming. And innovation should get support from all quarters to survive the vagaries of market forces. And ones which are as important as Saving forest and whole eco-system the Governments should support it. But before we put some thought as to how we can support and grow such ideas let us understand what it is –

Electronic paper, e-paper and electronic ink are display technologies which are designed to mimic the appearance of ordinary ink on paper. Unlike conventional backlit flat panel displays which emit light, electronic paper displays reflect light like ordinary paper. Many of the technologies can hold static text and images indefinitely without using electricity, while allowing images to be changed later. Flexible electronic paper uses plastic substrates and plastic electronics for the display backplane.

Electronic paper display (EPD) is often considered to be more comfortable to read than conventional displays.This is due to the stable image, which has no need to be refreshed constantly and has a wider viewing angle. An ideal e-paper display can be read in direct sunlight without the image appearing to fade. The contrast ratio in available displays as of 2008 might be described as similar to that of newspaper, though newly-developed displays are slightly better.There is ongoing competition among manufacturers to provide full-color ability.
Applications of electronic visual displays include electronic pricing labels in retail shops, and digital signage,time tables at bus stations,electronic billboards, mobile phone displays, and e-readers able to display digital versions of books and e-paper magazines. Electronic paper should not be confused with digital paper, which is a pad to create handwritten digital documents with a digital pen.

What an innovation. A genius of the human brain which can bring about sea change in the way we work. Tied to a e-book reader, a tablet, a computer and a smart phone, this was perhaps the penultimate tool, which can eliminate maximum use of paper; before we can adopt interactive projections in thin air in front of us, as shown in Sci-fi cinemas and is  some more time in becoming a reality for common persons to have.

So what could be the immediate uses, other than being another TV or a display kiosk? To my mind it can be used for printing architectural drawings, and each of these sheet can be reused till the final design to be produced is readied. And only those need be printed. Sure there would be trials and errors but human always find methods if there is a will. It could also act as submission sheets during class tests which are held with regularity in schools to prepare children for their annual and mid-term exams. The data can always be transferred into flash -drives for storage, thus refreshing the sheets for reuse, while still retaining record of previous data. Perhaps News corporations could devise ways where one could download the “News Paper view” form e-papers which already exist in the web and in fact they can rent out the flex-sheets, and charge as they would for the subscription. It is common knowledge that  amount of pulp that required daily to publish news papers are humongous.

But, as with Renewable Energy, such high technology would come at a price which would not be within reach of the common person. And here the Governments, guided by the UNEP and other responsible organisations like the World Bank, World Resources Institute, Climate Action International, Green Peace, Carbon Disclosure Project etc should come together to focus in finding the right financial instruments which would help scale it and make it affordable. In fact small amounts from those that are pledged under various programs to arrest deforestation and abate climate change could be pooled to make such innovations; I’m sure many more equally important are around the corner; a success.

In fact if the news paper readers from world over could just contribute $1 the amount would be huge, and in the bargain the Earth would gain.

Courtesy:,,,,, wikipedia



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