MIDWAY: Paper-free offices

For the past 10 years, we have been hurtling towards a paperless office revolution, when we will be freed from the shackles of stationery. No more Post — its plastered to your desk — the wonders of computers will magic away all clutter. The death of the ballpoint pen is nigh. Or it should be. But as our desks get more crowded with labour-saving wonders, so the pile of paper rises. It’s time to do something about it.

First stop: Get the management to put recycling bins for paper in the office, and tut gently at people who don’t use them. Lots of businesses are on the case, but we’re still chucking out much more than we need to.

Think of it this way: The less waste you produce, the less you need to recycle. Steve Webb from Waste Watch is a mine of paper-saving tips, and wise to the technology quirks that cause us to slip up. “Send e-mails rather than paper memos — and that people don’t then print out e-mails,’’ he advises. Other waste-cutting measures include setting up the printer to print double-sided drafts of work on scrap paper, and making scrap paper notepads. “It helps if you use recycled paper in the office, because it closes that loop — there’s no point recycling your waste if it doesn’t get used again as recycled paper and products,’’ says Webb. There’s more to sustainable offices than tree-friendly practices.

“Encourage your canteen not to use individual sachets of sauce or salt and pepper,’’ says Marcus Baker, environmental campaigns coordinator for Bristol city council. “Put bottles of sauce instead. “Buy food locally: it uses fewer food miles and often means higher standards of animal welfare.’’ And be careful how you wash your dinner down. “Install a water pump with a filter, instead of water-coolers.’’ You only have to do it once, and you don’t have the environmental effects of having to transport water by road or of the packaging. Get everybody to bring in a mug from home, rather than use throwaway cups.’’

So, forget the fancy technology — we’re no closer to a paperless office because of it. It’s old-fashioned make-do-and-mend that will make offices more sustainable. Not convinced? Just think of it as office working, vintage style.