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Not long ago, ‘going paperless’ was a term bandied about with great ease and relish by conservationists. Using less or no paper was supposed to be ‘better for the environment or important in saving trees.’ It has proven to be both unattainable and unsustainable as a goal. A more logical and attainable target has been embraced by the North American Paper and Pulp industry which continues to improve its green efforts. So, what are these green strides being made by the paper and pulp industry?
To discover why they are called envelopes, we have to travel back to the time before such a thing existed. So, sit back, relax and strap yourself in for a trip in what we call “the way back in time” machine. We will journey back to the dawn of written communications and discover the genesis and evolution of the humble envelope.
Postage stamps and oxygen don’t usually come to mind in the same thought, or train of thought, nor do they appear to be alike in any way. But they do have one thing in common: you usually don’t realize you need them until you’ve run out. Then the overwhelming necessity of either oxygen or stamps becomes very apparent. The lesson here is that seemingly insignificant things that are invisible or seldom noticed, like postage stamps, can actually have tremendous impact. So why were stamps created, and what is their history? To understand the importance of postage stamps we need to look at what conditions were like before they were invented. Before stamps came into existence, mail was hand stamped or inked. In 1661, postmarks were invented by Henry Bishop and were used by the London General Post Office. They were called Bishop’s Marks and contained the day and month the item was mailed. By the mid 1800’s, mail often took the form of a simply folded sheet of paper onto which the delivery address was written on the outside of the paper and the message on the inside of the paper. Envelopes were rarely used. It was very expensive to mail even one sheet of paper and so people began to devise codes and use trickery to get around paying for the delivery of the mail. The receiving party was expected to pay the postage and if they could discover the message from the code on the outside of the mail they would simply refuse delivery and save themselves the cost of paying for the item.
What is the future of the post office? Unfortunately, the term Post Office or US Post Office has come to be synonymous with inefficiency, frustration and, lately, in the hair-trigger times we live in, even uncontrollable rage, as in “going postal.” Why has this happened? How did we get to this point? Most importantly, where do we go from here?
What is the digital divide? And, what role do envelopes and paper play when it comes to the digital divide? The simplest explanation is that the digital divide represents the division between people with and without access to the Internet and computer technology. This gap is created by more than just physical access to smartphones, computer tablets and the Internet. It also includes an assumption of digital readiness or the ability to use those technologies. Many people don’t have the skills needed to use the Internet, a computer or smartphone, so there is a divide of digital readiness as well. Computer or technology illiteracy is a real thing and affects many people. The digital divide can be examined and subdivided into multiple causes created by different income levels, educational levels, the age of users and their geographical locations. Envelopes and paper build an extremely valuable bridge across this technology created chasm.
Have you ever just sat and wondered “what is the future of paper?” It’s a perfectly understandable question since scientists and technologists have been trumpeting the soon-to-be death of paper for the last forty years. In fact, if paper could talk, it might very happily paraphrase a famous quotation attributed to Mark Twain… ”the news of my demise has been greatly exaggerated.” Admittedly, this is a very rough paraphrase of the famous quote but it is very fitting since paper was supposed to be a distant memory well into the 21st century. But in spite of the death knell that has been sounded repeatedly since the 1970’s…paper is still very much here and going strong. In fact, paper has not only returned from the dead but is once again gaining in popularity. We will look at the future of paper through various lenses including current usage levels, consumer preferences, and sustainability.