Google, in collaboration with Fujitsu and several other companies, recently began the Go Paperless in 2013 initiative, encouraging consumers to use online services to save paper whenever possible. Two Sides, a not-for-profit organization that supports the paper industry, is not happy with Google’s campaign; they claim that the online giant is greenwashing and trying to get consumers to use their own products.
The case against Google
Two Sides has publicly admonished Google for making what they say are inaccurate claims about the paper industry; in addition, they insinuated that Google’s involvement in a campaign to save trees is hypocritical, since their daily operations could actually have a significant, detrimental impact on the environment. Two Sides further believes that Google’s “greenwash marketing” goes against standards set up by the United States Federal Trade Commission.One of the issues that Two Sides has with Google is the fact that the Internet giant utilizes an astonishing 2.3 million megawatt-hours (Mwh) per year of power. In addition, e-waste is quickly becoming a much bigger problem than ever before; electrical devices are considered hazardous material once they have been put into the trash. Two Sides also pointed out that research shows paper copies may actually be better for the environment than documents viewed on a computer screen. It is important to note, though, that this claim is only valid if the paper copy is either used several times or looked at by multiple people. In addition, the study being referenced was not published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Finally, Two Sides emphasized that the United States plants more trees than it cuts down. During the last five decades, tree volume has actually increased in forested areas. One common complaint against the paper industry, though, is that it has the potential to harm the rainforest and the animals that call that area their home. Two Sides did not address this issue when speaking out against Google and the Go Paper in 2013 initiative.
A history of activism
Two Sides has been vocal about anti-paper initiatives in the past as well. About six months ago, the organization spoke out against several UK companies, including Vodafone and British Telecom, and caused the majority of them to take back their negative claims regarding the paper industry and its impact on the environment. They were also instrumental in getting the National No-Print Day campaign cancelled, which was spearheaded by Toshiba.
Only time will tell if the open letter that Two Sides wrote to Eric Schmidt, the chairman and CEO of Google, will cause the company to rethink their Go Paperless campaign. For their part, the Two Sides organization seems committed to bringing awareness to the problems they see with the initiative.
About the author: In addition to writing on a variety of green topics, Chris is also does college admissions consulting.