Data Storage and Today’s Office; A Lesson in Environmental Stewardship

By E.C. Goggio, President of Mirror Image Media

We have come a long way in the methods in which we store data.  There have been many milestones along Man’s quest for the retention of information.

The Gutenberg Press in 1454 was a monumental change in this area. The printing press was an important step towards the democratization of knowledge.  No longer was information (the printed word) solely the possession of the Elite .

One can skip through the inventions of the modern printing press, typewriters, stacks of carbon paper, mimeographs, photocopiers and the like.

Along the Electronic Highway came a series of quantum leaps in storage from punch cards, to internal memory, to floppy disks, to diskettes, to Zip Drives, CD’s, and DVD’s and beyond.

Today, however, the CD is still the Industry Standard in the transportable, high volume duplication method of data storage.

Yet we take the enormous capability of the CD for granted.

Why Images Versus Paper?

Electronic document management has many advantages over paper filing systems. The biggest advantages are space and retrieval time savings. By transferring thousands of pages to one single CD, you will save valuable space. Consider that one CD potentially eliminates several file cabinets.  Document retrieval time is cut down to seconds instead of minutes or even hours and can be kept in the same room or building. Furthermore, more than one person can be accessing the same file at the same time. Imaged documents cannot be manipulated, altered, lost, misfiled, torn or destroyed (unless the disc itself is destroyed). They become your permanent archive records. Thousands of pages on CD can be transported in a briefcase. CD’s can then be stored in a small fireproof safe, protected from disaster as well as serving as a “back up” or second copy of your paper records.

There are many more advantages to digitizing your paper documents.

It is estimated that daily, U.S. businesses produce about 234 million copies, 600 million computer printouts, and file 45 sheets of paper per employee. A typical worker spends an average of 150 hours per year looking for lost documents.

How many documents can fit on one CD?

Approximately 20,000 letter-sized, black and white pages will fit on a single CD. Color documents and photos can also be scanned to CD, but because they require more memory, fewer will fit.

The Essential Guide (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), reports on an estimate calculated by Tom Soder, then a graduate student in the Pulp and Paper Technology Program at the University of Maine. He calculated that, based on a mixture of softwoods and hardwoods 40 feet tall and 6-8 inches in diameter, it would take a rough average of 24 trees to produce a ton of printing and writing paper, using the Kraft chemical (freesheet) pulping process.

Assuming 20,000 pages of B&W documents being on one CD:

This represents a saving of 2.4 trees.

• 1 carton (10 reams) of 100% virgin copier paper uses .6 trees
• 1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets
• 1 ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree (and those add up quickly)
• A “pallet” of copier paper (20-lb. sheet weight, or 20#) contains 40 cartons and weighs 1 ton.

Again, 1 ton of uncoated virgin (non-recycled) printing and office paper uses 24 trees and could have fit on 10 CD’s.

The Carbon Footprint of Shipping

Now let’s talk about shipping.  200,000 pages is a one ton skid of paper.

The carbon footprint of shipping is next to impossible to calculate given all the different modes of transportation and various destinations.

Following a scientific review ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court, the EPA recently issued a proposed finding that greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution that may endanger public health or welfare.”

The agency estimates that 33% of our nation’s annual carbon dioxide emissions come from transport-related activity.

The Carbon Footprint of Making Paper

We have not even touched upon the loss of all of these trees in terms of O2 and CO2 dynamics.

According to Jim Ford of Climate for Ideas for the Paper Planet, every paper production process and life cycle uses fossil fuels.

Transport of materials, purchased energy from the grid, oil, coal and gas used at the mill to make energy are key examples. These emissions are essentially irreversible even over the longest term. The use of chemicals and fossil fuels to make paper, which are large, also have indirect emissions associated with them.

Second, making virgin paper uses large amounts of biomass.  The very large majority of this biomass ends up in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Trees may grow again, but this depletion of the biomass in forests is irreversible in both the short and medium terms. Each time we cut down trees and burn them or allow them to decay we have to start the carbon sequestration process all over again, usually at rates of sequestration lower than what we had when the trees were in healthy forests. Thus, we are at a constant deficit relative to the other option: leaving the forests intact to continue to grow and sequester carbon. There are also impacts in the forest, in soils and forest debris that emit carbon when they are logged. No tree-planting program reverses that impact.

Third, much of the paper we use ends up in landfills where the carbon in the paper is converted to methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Until we recycle all of our paper, or capture the methane released from landfills to use as an energy source, this remains a large source of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

We need to understand our emissions, where they are in the process, what the relative emissions are and seek to reduce them. Some answers are simple: use recycled paper and use less paper. Some answers will require more time and dedication, like working with paper suppliers to ensure that forest management has the least impact where virgin wood is needed; improve the recycling system to divert as much paper back into a useful life and away from landfills; or reduce emissions from existing mills.

Mirror Image Media Does Its Part.

We have convinced Corporations large and small to reduce annual reports, prospectus info, catalogs, disclosure documents, etc. to a CD or DVD.

The following are three examples of how we have helped our customers do their part in the greening of our planet.

Lessiter Publishing

Lessiter Publishing Company, based in Brookfield, WI publishes a variety of special audience publications.  They also put on conferences, produce guides to their readership, and publish catalogs.  Rather than print all of these materials, they now have the information placed on a CD.  Depending on the specific uses, their average orders are in the range of 1000 CDs.  Again, depending on the use, the CD may be inserted into the publication, or the CD’s are then distributed to the specific audience by a separate mailing.  In the second example, The CD cannot be inserted into the magazine due to the fact that the entire readership would not benefit from the information, and that would be a waste of resources.

As to cost savings, most of the information is text files or PDF format files.  On a typical project, the Cd’s are approximately half full of information.  So lets assume 10,000 pages of paper were saved.  Even rounding down, for each CD, one tree was saved.  Therefore, on a 1000 CD run, 1000 trees were saved!  1000 trees were not removed from the ecosystem, and no energy was spent manufacturing the paper.

In other terms 10,000,000 sheets of paper were not wasted!

As to the shipping footprint, CD’s inserted into the magazines had no additional effect on postage nor energy spent on shipping.

On the CD’s shipped separately, some were shipped in bulk, and others separately.  With each CD representing 10,000 sheets of paper, that becomes 20 reams of paper.  With a ream of paper weighing 5 pounds, that represents 100 pounds of paper per CD.  A 100 pound shipment sent UPS from NYC to LA would cost $50.  The CD would have cost $1.05 to be put in First Class Flat Mail.

Extrapolating out, the aggregate shipment of the paper equivalent of 1000 CD’s is 100,000 pounds.  It sure adds up quickly.

Zeigler Wealth Management

Zeigler Wealth Management is a Division of BC Zeigler and Company, an internationally based diversified financial services holding company.  Mirror Image Media does a variety of projects for all divisions of the company.  They range from re-caps of Strategic Planning Conferences, to Educational Materials, etc.  One of the latest projects was the most creative.

Zeigler was in the process of enlisting new clients, and as part of that process, the legal department needed to send out a host of forms and materials to the new team members.  In working with their vice President of Marketing and Communications, we were able to convince their legal department to send all the materials on a CD.  Everyone involved was very happy to get the blessing of the legal group.

The CD was sent out to over 2000 recipients, and consisted of a handful of 12 page documents.  On the surface, that does not seem like a big deal, but let’s run the numbers.

Three 12 page documents is only 36 pages, but when we multiply that by 2000, that equates to 72,000 pieces of paper.  That is 14.4 cartons of paper. That is 720 lbs. of paper.  In terms of resources, that is 8.6 trees.

This is the way we must start thinking.  At the outset, putting 36 pages on a CD hardly seems worth it until you do the math.  It takes vision and a new mindset to begin to think in these terms.

Walter AG

Walter AG has been producing indexable inserts and solid carbide tools for the World Market from its headquarters in Tübingen, Germany, for over 80 years.  Walter USA works closely with Mirror Image Media in the reproduction of their software that helps their customers determine the proper tooling for their application.  The information is too large to put on line, and previously distributed in the form of a large of catalogs around the world.

The TEC+CCS DVD is a tech program that helps users with deciding which parts to use for a project based on certain parameters.

It has data from 5 catalogs that the user can navigate through. We have been able to help them cut down the number of catalogs they print by about 5,000 per print job. Over 5 catalogs, that’s 25,000 catalogs that don’t need to be printed. Because each catalog varies in page count, we will assume 300 pages per catalog.

This is a savings of 7,500,000 pages of black and white and color pages. Catalogs and news magazines only take down 8 trees per ton vs. 24 for virgin paper, but the numbers are still staggering.

This being a Global Entity that prints their catalog in 5 languages, it becomes hard to quantify the carbon impact on the distribution chain.


Mirror Image Media works with a host of Fortune 500 customers, as well as small companies to provide solutions for the retention of data and assorted information.  We have been servicing Industry for 17 years, and we are always looking for new technologies to stay on the leading edge of our Industry.

The above are just a few examples of ways that we work with our customers to help keep the planet sustainable and reduce the precious resources that we once took for granted.  We must all do what we can to provide our grandchildren with an environment in which they can flourish.

We will do our part, and you do yours!

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