Cutting paper use could mean $100,000 in savings for county

May 17, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

King County intends to save about $100,000 by reducing paper consumption by 20 percent through 2013.

County Council members adopted legislation May 2 to require county agencies to purchase paper made from 100 percent recycled content, rather than the 40 percent recycled-content paper in use under the current system.

The measure calls for agencies to reduce printer and copy paper use by a further 20 percent through 2013. The legislation also encourages employees to use double-sided printing and copying, and share more documents electronically.

County Executive Dow Constantine developed the legislation after hearing frequent paper-savings suggestions from county employees.

“This legislation builds on our shared goals of saving public dollars and reducing the environmental impact of county operations,” he said in a release.

Estimates from the nonprofit Environmental Paper Network indicate the measure should save almost 7,400 trees from harvest and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 375 tons. In addition, paper manufacturers should be able to avoid producing 3.4 million gallons of wastewater and 100 tons of solid waste.

Based on the county’s current paper purchases, a 20 percent reduction in paper use translates to up to $100,000 per year.

King County has already reduced printer and copy paper use by 10 percent since 2007 due to the implementation of electronic court records for the King County District Court, as well as other measures.

Issaquah’s representative, Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, launched a paperless pilot project at a council committee May 3.

“The cost of 100 percent recycled paper has come down over the years. It is still slightly more expensive, but the higher cost is offset by the actions our employees are taking to reduce paper use, ultimately saving the county money while also protecting the environment,” she said in a release. “Manufacturing 100 percent recycled paper requires less energy and fewer resources and for that reason we expect that the price will continue to decrease relative to other types of paper.”

Committee reduces paper to cut costs

The council Accountability and Oversight Committee conducted a nearly paperless meeting May 3.

“This is a big step toward improving the efficiency of county operations by moving toward electronic solutions,” Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, the committee chairwoman and Issaquah representative, said in a release. “In 2010, the county spent $1,169,988 on buying paper, which indicates great potential for savings.”

In the past, committee meetings utilized paper packets containing proposed legislation, staff reports and accompanying materials in file folders. Each semimonthly meeting involved producing 20-25 paper packets containing from 2,500 to more than 3,000 pages.

The meeting launched a 90-day pilot project. Now, the material can be found online in PDF format.

Staffers no long receive paper copies of meeting materials, although council members receive one paper copy each. Lambert referenced electronic committee documents via computer during the meeting.

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