Photo Copying: Greening Myself Out of a Job


It’s time to get something off my chest: an idea that could protect entire forests, save millions – and get me fired.

What does paperless actually mean in today’s world? Despite increasingly living in a world where the electron is king – where even business cards are under threat – we still cling to our slivers of bleached, flattened wood pulp with an obsessive, needy love. We pretend that we’ve found an ingenious way to avoid turning pages, but after a while the flaws start to niggle and we revert back to our old, less sustainable ways.

And boy, do I know it. I work in a printing business during the daytime, servicing the needs of a nearby city and university. The latter is a big customer. And by big, I mean massive. Departmental teaching material, student photocopying – it’s endless.

I cannot convey to you how much paper we go through.

So my idea, then. It hinges around the surely undeniable fact that every modern student has (a) access to a computer, and (b) a mobile phone or digital camera (or phone-cameras, many of which now have 4-Megapixel+ resolutions).

And it’s very simple. Instead of photocopying, everyone takes photos.

Technologists can develop foldout A4-sized cameras specifically for academics to easily take snapshots of multiple pages. Students can apply for funding for these devices, along with eBook readers and more conventional camera equipment. Departments can produce all their reading material in a digital format, confident in the knowledge that everyone will be geared up to read it. And everyone will, because that will be the official line.

But – libraries will lose a lot of revenue. My workplace will probably go out of business. And they’ll blame me.

It’s a dilemma. What do you think?

Image: ssh

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.