A Singapore law professor once shared with me, "It's easy to set up a law school in a university. You just need space and a photocopier!"
One of the things I find shocking about the legal profession is how un-environment-friendly it can be in its use of paper. This practice of wasting paper starts from law school where one develops a penchant for photocopying. The practice then becomes a habit, which one takes into the profession.
I have found, over the years, that the immediate solution to any legal problem appears to be the photocopier, regardless of the relevance of the material photocopied to the problem.
The issue of relevance is only dealt with after the photocopying is completed, that is when one has had the chance to better consider the material photocopied.
The costs of photocopying also end up being borne by the client in the form of disbursements.
In the working world, I have learnt that this habit is not just limited to the legal profession. Many in the working world are equally entranced by the photocopier.
Over the years, I have attempted to persuade my colleagues and loved ones to be more considerate in their use of paper.
In March this year, my sister's friends gave her a birthday present: a photocopier for home use! When she gladly brought the present home, I knew then my attempts have had limited success.
Nevertheless, some six weeks later, one consolation is that the present still remains unused and wrapped in its packaging!
Another consolation is that I have had better success personally. I do a variety of things to limit my use of paper, which I willingly encourage others to apply.
Firstly, I limit my use of photocopying. I only photocopy things that I know would be relevant and useful to me. Ironically, this habit has partly been facilitated from my days in the University of Leicester, where photocopying used to cost a dear 20 pence per page. As a result, I was forced to spend hours in the library to read and assess the material, and take away only what was relevant.
Secondly, I don't keep printed records. I get my administrative staff to scan documents that I receive and I read them online. If I need to circulate the documents, I send it to others by e-mail rather than by fax or mail. My records are also stored in online folders; the advantage here is that I can utilise them at any time from any computer with Internet access.
Thirdly, I print two pages on one page (not recommended for those who need reading glasses) and, as far as possible, I use both sides of the paper. If, for any reason, I have not been able to use both sides of the paper, the paper goes into my recycling bin and I make use of the clean side at the next available opportunity.
Sometimes, this has incurred the wrath of my computer experts in the office; they argue that using recycled paper jams the printers and my meek counter-argument often is that they should invest in printers that facilitate the use of recycled paper!
Finally, after I have used the paper fully, I throw the paper away in the recycling bin, in the hope that this used paper will go on to be used in other useful products.
Please spare the photocopier and use paper prudently.
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?