Google is ringing in the New Year with a drive to push the paperless office to new heights in 2013. Google Drive is joining Fujitsu, Constant Contact, Expensify and others in a campaign to remove the need for paper from paperwork.
The initiative is compelling, especially for green-minded companies. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average office worker uses a whopping 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. And in 2010 alone the amount of paper recovered for recycling averaged 334 pounds for each person living in the U.S., according to the American Forest & Paper Association.
"It's a new year, which means new resolutions. If you're up for saving time, money and trees, going paperless might be a good goal for you in 2013," said Google Drive product manager Meredith Blackwell in a blog post. "This year, Google Drive is part of the Paperless Coalition, a group of organizations and products that help you live completely in a paper-free world. So whether you're an expense reporter, invoice tracker, file hoarder or note jotter, you can do it all without using paper."
Google's Vested Interest
Of course, Google and other companies in the coalition have a vested interest in pushing the paperless office. In Google's case, that vested interested is Google Drive. Google Drive is a "freemium" service that lets you store your files, including documents, photos, videos and Google Docs online.
"Google Drive makes it easy to keep all your stuff in the cloud and access it anywhere -- so you don't have to carry around paper copies wherever you go," Blackwell said. "There are also other great apps that can help you get things done in the cloud -- no printer required."
By joining the Paperless Coalition, Google brings visibility to its product. Google offers 5 GB of free, but begins charging after you hit that limit. Although the fee is nominal -- you can upgrade to 25 GB for less than $2.50 a month -- it is nevertheless a potential revenue stream for the search engine giant.
Is Paperless Impossible?
Accounting software firm Xero, account and bill organizer Manilla, HelloSign and HelloFax are also part of the coalition. With its partner base, the coalition covers the most common paper scenarios for most offices, including billing, faxing, signing documents, accounting and storage.
"The tools for a paperless office are out there. But the old habit of using paper is hard to break," said Joseph Walla, CEO of HelloFax and HelloSign. "That's why we're making it as simple as possible for you to move into a paperless world."
Greg Sterling, principal analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence, said the initiative is a worthy aspiration for multiple reasons, as well as a way for Google and others to promote their own interests.
"The paperless office is probably still quite far away, if achievable at all," Sterling told us. "However the proliferation of tablets may bring us much closer to that objective because of their high-resolution screens and print or paper-like reading experience."