Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy (Dec 2022)

The paperless office twenty years later: Still a myth?

  • Michael D. Briscoe

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 18, no. 1
pp. 837 – 845


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Sellen and Harper’s The Myth of the Paperless Office argued that paper-displacement technologies paradoxically led to a rise in paper consumption. Using data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, I analyze paper-consumption trends in the twenty years since the publication of this pivotal book. These data show that globally paper consumption has leveled out and that in most regions of the world it has begun to decline, in some cases by large amounts in a relatively short period of time. I suggest that there are two primary reasons for this reversal: improved displacement technologies such as smartphones and mobile Internet and time for people and organizations to adopt these new technologies and behaviors.