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Hard Copy

The introduction of computers into the office was expected to reduce paper consumption but actually had the opposite effect; at least until recently. Office use of paper has been in decline since 2001. I rarely print anything these days. Print media is also on the wane: we subscribe to the Seattle Times and a few magazines but a lot fewer than in the past. We still buy books but not as many. Other media is also on the wane: vinyl is long dead. video tape is nearly dead. Like a lot of people, we’ve stopped buying music CDs.

Hard media is out; replaced by online, stored or streamed media. Bits move around quickly and take up very little space. But they don’t have the same charm as what they’ve replaced. And that’s a bit sad. I like the glossy feel of a magazine. Enjoy reading the newspaper spread out on the table. I don’t mourn the departure of music CDs with their brittle jewel cases but rather then vinyl records that they replaced. Record albums provided a large enough canvas for compelling images and liner notes.

But enough nostalgia. From a green perspective, getting rid of all of this hard media is a good thing. Why print out documents when you can read them on your computer? Why should publishers print hundreds of thousands of copies of a newspaper each day to be read once and tossed out? The same with weekly and monthly magazines. Why produce millions of CDs that just end up in landfills?

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