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70 Government Entities Commit to Paperless Legislative Workflows

Nearly 1.5 billion sheets of paper are used in local government legislative processes each year, according to an industry estimate.

For several years local and state governments have been taking strides to go green. These measures have included paperless offices, energy efficient architecture and conservation campaigns aimed at the public. Several agencies, for example, have moved into Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified facilities that adhere to strict environmental design standards outlined by the U.S. Green Building Council.

A similar idea is being applied to the problem of wasteful paper-based workflows. Granicus, a cloud technologies company that focuses on government transparency, announced last month the launch of its nationwide Government Go Green Project — promoting environmental sustainability in government by reducing paper consumption through the use of iPads and other technologies that eliminate paper waste.

The company says that more than 70 government entities —most of them local governments — have signed on to the nonbinding pledge. It’s readily apparent that it’s in the company’s business interest for governments to move to paperless solutions. But only some of the Go Green pledgers are customers of the company, according to Granicus.

Several county or city clerks have left a comment on the program’s Facebook page, indicating support for their government. All the agencies that pledged already have a project in place to go green or they were in the process of implementing one, according to the company. The full list of pledging governments is posted here

According to Tom Spengler, CEO and co-founder of Granicus, a survey the company conducted revealed that nearly 1.5 billion sheets of paper are used in local government legislative processes each year.

“It’s just amazing how much paper [government agencies] use, and so we decided that we would not only try to continue pushing for green products, but help them move to a paperless process — especially around their public meetings,” Spengler said.

Multnomah County, Ore., joined the Go Green project and has already started to reduce its paper usage by uploading board meeting packets on iPads instead of printing them on paper. Lynda Grow, the county board clerk, said the board packets “were gobbling up reams and reams and reams of paper.”

The county stopped printing board meeting packets in April 2011. The county uses the Granicus software to upload that material to the iPads.  Grow said the county overall is now saving $40,000 a year on paper.

Eliminating all paper-based processes may not be an easy feat for some government agencies. Spengler said governments do know there’s much room for improvement. But challenges may arise, he conceded.

“Sometimes it hard because you have an elected official — or two, or three or five — who just doesn’t want to give up their paper,” Spengler said. “And as a staff member, it’s hard to tell your elected official, ‘No, we’re going green, and you’re not going to get paper anymore.’”


Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.