Replacing the physical with the electronic -- also known as dematerialization -- is among the effective techniques for achieving greener business practices. Dematerialization comes in various forms, such as replacing physical CDs with downloaded MP3s; conducting meetings virtually via video or telepresence instead of bringing far-flung people to one place; and using electronic documents instead of physical ones.
The topic was discussed at the recent GreenNet forum in San Francisco and continues to linger in my mind for a particular reason: Among the members of the panel advocating the merits of dematerialization was Casey Harrell, Greenpeace's own IT analyst.
The irony is at this same event, Greenpeace announced its "Cool IT" list for 2010, celebrating the greenest high-tech companies out there. To help disseminate this announcement, Greenpeace handed out informational packets to press members and anyone else who wanted a copy.
Each packet included three pieces of recycled paper, printed on front and back with soy-based inks. All three pages, in one way or another, described the Cool IT Challenge and Leaderboard. The pages came tucked in a sturdy, Greenpeace-emblazoned, paper pocket file folder (also recycled), along with a business card -- again, printed on recycled paper -- from Greenpeace's press officer. The press officer's contact information was also on one of the aforementioned sheets of recycled paper.
Notably, Greenpeace gave a presentation about its Cool IT announcement during a session at the event. Additionally, all the same information is available on the Greenpeace Website.
The irony should be clear: I didn't need three pieces of papers in a file folder with a business card to cover the story. (Truth be told, I didn't cover it; someone from the IDG News Service did.) But had I been writing about it and wanted to use Greenpeace-provided materials, I'd have consulted the electronic materials online for simplicity. The venue even had wireless Internet access, and far as I could tell, every member of the press had a computer.