a-toilet-paper We all know that the so-called “paperless office” turned out…not to be. In fact, computers caused the use of more paper than ever before. There was even a paper shortage a few years back, though it may be stretching a point to tie this to paper use brought on by computers.

But it looks as if the predominance of electronic media—websites, electronic newspapers, and, yes, e-books—is now doing what the “paperless office” could not, cutting down on the use of paper significantly. And this is having some unanticipated consequences. In particular, it could quite possibly cause a shortage of high-quality toilet paper, as the high-quality regular paper it is made from becomes scarcer.

On a related note, the chief executive of Montreal-based paper company Domtar has gotten frustrated with the “think before you print” slogan that adorns many e-mail signatures, web sites, and other media. Feeling that people aren’t printing enough, Domtar is actually launching an ad campaign, “Put It On Paper”, to inform people that paper, used responsibly, is actually environmentally friendly.

Responsible forestry companies like Domtar are the stewards of the world’s forests and ensure that they maintain their biodiversity, Mr. Williams, a consumer products industry veteran who took over as CEO of Domtar early last year, told reporters after his speech.

They typically plant three trees for every tree they harvest, he said.

On the other hand, Greenpeace Canada accuses Domtar of “opening up what should be protected forests in Quebec, threatening the habitat of some species.”

It both interests and amuses me that paper use is apparently falling off to the point that it is both endangering the comfort of our rear ends and prompting a paper company to launch a campaign telling people they should use more paper. But with paper use expected to decline by 4% a year over the next few years, perhaps it is a sign that the real “paperless office” is not that far away after all.

Related: Will the Kindle be the new Sears catalogue someday—even if it won’t be so handy in the outhouse?


  1. Why is it this sounds like an april fools joke to me? The paperless office was the right idea but it has taken a long time for us to get there (first we needed the Internet). When I first got e-mail in the 1980s, we printed off each e-mail. I can’t remember the last time I printed one. I used to print off all of my manuscripts. Now I edit on the monitor. Now we do our forms, expense reports, tax filings, pretty much everything on line–and paperless. Oh, yeah, also our reading and our writing.

    I’m pretty sure toilet paper manufacturers will find a way to let us keep our hygiene current. And saying that wasting paper is good for the environment is truly double-speak.

    Rob Preece

  2. First of all I hope the fear that we won’t have good quality toilet paper is a joke. Second, we should not be using trees to make paper. Tree originated paper is not environmentally friendly. It would be much better if we re-legalize hemp and make a superior paper product from that matieral. Hemp paper does not yellow and it only uses one third the water in the paper making process. The Constitution of the United States is written on hemp paper. All the Founding Fathers of our nation grew hemp. If you care about the environment you should support hemp.

  3. I’ve seen the ads, too… “Print Saves Trees” indeed. The mere suggestion that three newly-planted trees equals one mature tree is insulting… it doesn’t take much intelligence to realize that those new trees will take decades to equal the capacity and environmental value of one mature tree, at a time when our environment needs trees right now a lot more than we need paper.

    And the fact is, most trees are being harvested outside of these “managed forests” people like Dotmar love to tell us about. And, of course, he steers right by the energy and environmental impact of paper manufacture, shipping, etc. Just another attempt at preserving his personal status quo, at the expense of everyone else.

    As to the TP issue… it’s appropriate that it comes from Fox news, as so much of their output is dependent on those same products to clean up after them…

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.