Sep 4, 2008

Drafting Green

Dramatization by professional actor on closed set.I've been known to use a few pencils in my line of work, and Slate has a nice analysis of whether mechanical or old-fashioned wooden ("manual"?) pencils are more sustainable. (Note that the article is written with a bent toward forgetful 12-year-olds; although I am slightly older, I am no less forgetful.)

Pencils are one thing; but what really disturbs me is the volume of paper my industry consumes. From the drafting vellum (aka "trace," "flimsy," and "bumwad") we begin our concepts on, to the infinite number of preliminary designs and construction plan documents we ultimately print for our clientele and contractors, to the orders we fax back and forth with our plant nurseries, to the proposals and invoices and business cards and other administratia that are an integral part of our work, we murder an obscene number of trees for folks who supposedly value trees.

(Automatic A+ to anyone who calculates, including proofs, how many trees must die for a 24" x 36" sheet of bond paper.)

Sure, I try to do my part: I've migrated, reluctantly, to CAD drafting and 3D modeling; I render my drawings at smaller sizes and enlarge them digitally, thereby using less paper (and less marker); I spec recycled paper for my plan documents; and I email PDFs whenever I can instead of printing hard copies of proofs, prints, proposals and the like. But the fact remains, we're a paper-intensive business. Any suggestions for how I can reduce my use?


Anonymous said...

I would encourage your plant nurseries to ditch the fax machine and get a computer. You can do electronic orders, invoices, bill pay etc. They really should do their part to reduce paper usage.

Can you implement a password protected area of your site for clients (somewhat like photographers who host their proofs)? That way, you can post PDFs for everyone to view and provide feedback rather than printing new sheets with revisions each time?

My thoughts!

John said...

@kathsf: Thanks for your thoughts... I couldn't agree more! I'm still waiting for the nursery who will (a) maintain an accurate electronic inventory; (b) publish said inventory so that designers can know what's in and what's out of stock when we make our planting plans; and (c) promote electronic ordering. There's a huuuge void here and I wish some Silicon Valley hotshot would fill it already.

Your point about a secure area on my site is well taken and has been a gleam in my eye for years. The problem (for me) is twofold: first, and most practically, contractors work on-site with paper plans they can mark up; so ultimately someone needs to print hard copies anyway.

Second and more particular to me is that I present my designs in person — in effect play "tour guide" of the proposed landscape to answer questions, explain features, etc. in real time. I also put a lot of stock into my clientele's first impressions — the look on their face tells me a lot about whether they are excited and buy into the concept emotionally, whether or not it makes sense rationally. I suspect the answer to this question is online-meeting technology, but that's still a significant investment for me and my clientele.