Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Takeover of Paperless 2013

A group of companies including Google recently created the Paperless 2013 campaign to promote the use of online solutions, but unsubstantiated environmental claims caused the program to backfire.

The campaign went viral in the past few days, with hundreds of Twitter messages a day using the hashtag “#paperless2013.” But the tweets are running roughly 10 to 1 against the campaign, with most criticizing it for implying that digital media are always greener than paper-based media without providing any facts.

Welcome to a protest tool for the 21st Century – the hashtag takeover. I didn’t invent the concept, but I think I’m the first to use the term (which is ironic given my lack of social-media savvy. My Facebook page has cobwebs from neglect.)

The tactic sprang up in June as one of the grassroots responses to Toshiba’s ill-fated No Print Day. Toshiba was using "#NoPrintDay" to promote its gimmick, but defenders of print turned that hashtag into a
rallying point for anti-Toshiba efforts. (See 9 Lessons From Toshiba's No-Print Day Debacle and Toshiba's No-Print Day As Popular As a Turd in the Punchbowl for the story of how Toshiba backed down.)

Two Sides brought the Paperless 2013 greenwash to light this past Tuesday when it sent an open letter to Google's
CEO, challenging the campaign as "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." The letter cites chapter and verse about Google's own environmental impact.

Deborah Corn, a ringleader of the opposition to No Print Day, rallied the troops this time around with her article, Going Guerrilla Against Google's #Paperless 2013 Campaign. (Yes, she quoted me accurately, including the key point about sending a message to corporations: "If you make false environmental claims about electronic media always being greener than print, expect backlash.")

Here's how the hashtag takeover works: People supporting (or paid to support) the Paperless 2013 campaign have been sending out tweets beginning “My New Year’s resolution is to go paperless in 2013” and including “#paperless2013”. The “#” turns the phrase into a search term that’s supposed to make it easy for people to find fellow pledge takers.

But those who used the hashtag were barraged with replies pointing out that the campaign is misleading, demanding data to back up the vague claims, or highlighting more objective assessments of when to use digital or print media.

Searching Twitter for #paperless2013 has turned into a wonderful way to connect with others who object to the demonization of print and to discover articles and resources about how to make green media choices, including this great infographic: It's also become a forum for exploring what else can be done to fight paperless-is-good greenwash: A hashtag takeover is an effective opening salvo but it won't win the war.

If you want to get in on the action, here's a hint: When "Mr. Greenwash" tweets a message bragging about going paperless, don't just hit "Reply" and write your response. Put a colon, period, or other character at the beginning (so that, for example, it starts ":@Mr. Greenwash") and include the hashtag "paperless2013" (no spaces) to ensure your message is seen by as many people as possible.

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DirectMarketer said...

I personally helped Google produce and mail 40 MILLION direct mail packages to promote their AdWords campaign. Paperless, indeed.

John Conley said...


For a non technical person you have come up with a terrific technical social media marketing strategy which is turning the google campaign into an painful boomarang. This is why you are a thought leader for the industry.

I am circulating your note thorughout our marketing department.


Gina Danner said...

What does the #paperless2013 movement think about toilet paper? Or is that taking taking their movement a little far. Pun intended...

And, what about the packaging that the electronics come in?

Thanks for the commentary and support of our industry.

michaelejahn said...

Okay, riddle me this.

I have a quote for you here:

( this is from a test system, this will not actually generate an order )

So, lets consider what I would need to do to send this quote 'the paper based way' - I would probably print it to some printer ( which is plugged into some wall consuming power ) and then it would create a sheet of paper and use up some toner, then I would fax it ( yes, that fax machine is also using power ) which sends it through the same wires that we use to send the internet version through ( so that is a wash )..

but when the fax version gets there, it uses power, paper and some toner, then you need to review it, and reverse the process ( send me a fax ) to place the order. in the digital version, you just click which quantity and it places an order. I do not need to do a study to see which one consumes more materials and energy.

I think that the "paperless" version is superior, and that is one of the features that many of our customer happily use.

Giovanni said...


I think you have been greenwashed my friend.
You are the perfect example of how people think that CONVENIENCE is the same as being EFFICIENT.

Well here is the answer to your riddle...

Lets really think this through:

Sending your quote by email requires:

1. LCD Monitor (30W)
2. Desktop PC (150w)
3. Modem (20W + possibly wireless router)
3. Keyboard and mouse batteries (mminimal)
4. Server (425W and we don't know how many of these your email goes through to get to it's recepient)

To Send by Fax:

1. LCD Monitor (30W)
2. Desktop PC (150w)
3. Keyboard and mouse batteries (minimal)
4.Inkjet Printer (120W)
5.Fax Machine (30W x 2 accounting for recipient)

Add these up :

Email (625W)
Fax (330W)

Now I'm no electrician so this might not be the right way to calculate what uses more energy BUT the main point here is that:

When you email it, every single time I need to see it, I have to use the desktop, the monitor, keyboard and mouse. If I want to send it to someone else I have to go through the same amount of energy and devices it took to get it to me.

If you fax it, it's always there on my desk, no need to use any energy consuming devices except a light bulb to see it again.
If I want to forward it or reply, it's already printed so it only needs to be printed again on the other end of the fax or I can make a call you and place the order. No servers, no LCD monitors, keyboards, modems, etc.

So I completely agree with is more CONVENIENT but it's not "a wash".


Dajon said...

Going paperless or not actually depends on the person. But since a lot of people are going paperless now due to its efficiency on cost and other factors, this method is considered effective to use in the techno-driven world that we are in today.

paperless agenda said...

Hi, you make mind blowing ideas and a spectacular article here.