A group of companies including Google recently created the Paperless 2013 campaign to promote the use of online solutions, but unsubstantiated environmental claims caused the program to backfire.
January 13 2013
Dead Tree Edition
A group of companies including Google recently created the Paperless
2013 campaign to promote the use of online solutions, but
unsubstantiated environmental claims caused the program to backfire.
The campaign went viral in the past few days, with hundreds of Twitter
messages a day using the hashtag #paperless2013. But the tweets are
running roughly 10 to 1 against the campaign, with most criticizing it
for implying that digital media are always greener than paper-based
media without providing any facts.
Welcome to a protest tool for the 21st Century the hashtag takeover. I
didnt invent the concept, but I think Im the first to use the term
(which is ironic given my lack of social-media savvy. My Facebook page
has cobwebs from neglect.)
The tactic sprang up in June as one of the grassroots responses to
Toshibas ill-fated No Print Day. Toshiba was using “#NoPrintDay” to
promote its gimmick, but defenders of print turned that hashtag into a rallying point for anti-Toshiba efforts. (See 9 Lessons From Toshiba’s No-Print Day Debacle and Toshiba’s No-Print Day As Popular As a Turd in the Punchbowl for the story of how Toshiba backed down.)
Two Sides brought the Paperless 2013 greenwash to light this past Tuesday when it sent an open letter to Google’s
CEO, challenging the campaign as “another example of a self-interested organization using an
environmentally focused marketing campaign to promote its services while
ignoring its own impact upon the environment.” The letter cites chapter and verse about Google’s own environmental impact.
Deborah Corn, a ringleader of the opposition to No Print Day, rallied the troops this time around with her article, Going Guerrilla Against Google’s #Paperless 2013 Campaign.
(Yes, she quoted me accurately, including the key point about sending a
message to corporations: “If you make false environmental claims about
electronic media always being greener than print, expect backlash.”)
Here’s how the hashtag takeover works: People supporting (or paid to
support) the Paperless 2013 campaign have been sending out tweets
beginning My New Years resolution is to go paperless in 2013 and
including #paperless2013. The # turns the phrase into a search term
thats supposed to make it easy for people to find fellow pledge takers.
But those who used the hashtag were barraged with replies pointing out
that the campaign is misleading, demanding data to back up the vague
claims, or highlighting more objective assessments of when to use
digital or print media.
Searching Twitter for #paperless2013 has turned into a wonderful way to
connect with others who object to the demonization of print and to
discover articles and resources about how to make green media choices,
including this great infographic.
It’s also become a forum for exploring what else can be done to fight
paperless-is-good greenwash: A hashtag takeover is an effective opening
salvo but it won’t win the war.
If you want to get in on the action, here’s a hint: When “Mr. Greenwash”
tweets a message bragging about going paperless, don’t just hit “Reply”
and write your response. Put a colon, period, or other character at the
beginning (so that, for example, it starts “:@Mr. Greenwash”) and
include the hashtag “paperless2013” (no spaces) to ensure your message
is seen by as many people as possible.