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The Paperless Office--yeah, right!

June 16, 2010
This week GreenWorksGov introduces a new feature, the guest blog, that will appear from time to time. Our first guest blogger is Cami Feek, Sustainability Officer for the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.  Cami also serves as the Director of Office Services and Facilities for Attorney General Rob McKenna.  
We have all heard it for years: someday we will have a paperless office! Sure, it sounds simple. However, at the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, we found out that rarely are things as simple as they seem when it comes to eliminating paper. Although we are proud to report we have recognized a 22 percent reduction in paper since 2004, it is clear, we are far from paperless! 
How did we get there? Many strategies. Not just one. Over the last several years, we implemented a number of operational changes that all contributed to our paper reduction results. The primary strategy was deploying a double-sided printing program. It seems easy enough. Just print double-sided-- or duplex if you want to get technical. But, double-sided printing isn’t always allowed in the legal world, and just how do you set your default so you don’t have to “switch” for every print job? Or better yet, how do you set the default on the printer itself? For some, just turning on the computer is a technical accomplishment. And, what’s in it for me as an employee anyway? 
Our double-sided printing campaign evolved from a strategy in our sustainability plan to a reality in our office over the course of a couple of years. Three keys underscored our success. First, agency leadership adopted a policy that requires all employees to default to double-sided printing, unless they have a business reason that they cannot. In those instances the employee must seek approval from a supervisor to have a single-sided setting as their default. It’s required—and that’s great, but functionally it took more than that to be successful.  
The second key was our sustainability liaisons. Every single division of our agency, at every single location, has an appointed sustainability liaison whose role it is to implement and support adoption of sustainability efforts in their division. These individuals were critical to assisting others with setting up their printer defaults to meet the requirements of the policy. They also helped to develop FAQ sheets and information to help people transition to duplex printing. And, because these liaisons are members of the individual divisions, they were trusted and could provide the appropriate leadership in their respective teams to get this up and running. 
The third and final element of success is peer pressure. Yes, it works! As more and more people convert, more people expect that others do the same.  
In addition to double-sided printing, there are other measures that have reduced our paper. The courts in Washington are allowing more electronic filings. Although a great many still require paper, more and more we are seeing the ability to file electronically. While not directly under control, our agency has positioned itself to be able to take advantage of those situations where electronic filings are allowed. 
Our agency also elected to eliminate the printing of Employee Earnings Statements. We no longer provide a paper copy to the employees, instead, we direct them to the online site provided to all state employees where they can look up their individual earnings statement, each pay period. These PDF files can also be saved to their computer so they have a history and can print them as needed for proof of income. Not only did this contribute to our paper reduction, but also saved the staff time associated with the sorting and delivery of these statements by location that occurred twice a month.  
To augment one of the primary pieces of information on the earning statement that employees like to review quickly, their leave balances, and our IT department created a way to pull that information into our employee directory so employees can look this up quickly without logging into the statewide system that contains the earning statement. This “short cut” to information eliminated a lot of the concern that was expressed when employees learned they would no longer get paper copies of their earning statement. 
Most recently our agency implemented Discovery Accelerator, software that will allow us to make our public records process all electronic. Rather than print out and records to combine with existing hard copy documents to provide requestors a paper copy, our agency now scans in the hard copy to merge with electronic records, redacts them online, electronically routes the request documents and ultimately the requestor is provided a CD with responsive, electronic documents. We anticipate that this new method of public disclosure will have an ongoing, positive impact on the use of paper in our office. 
Additionally, we continue to expand the capability of online meetings. You may wonder how this would impact paper. The difference we see is that rather than coming to a meeting to be provided printed handouts, the documents provided for meetings and trainings are more likely to be part of the online environment. People look at them on their personal screen, at their desk and are less likely to print them out than if they were to all meet in person to review and discuss them.  
Collectively these actions have created success in reducing paper, but, like most government offices, we are far from paperless!