Boycott Xerox, says environmental group
I saw this sticker on a lamp pole yesterday. It’s from a radical environmental group that wants to boycott Xerox because they use a lot of paper that comes from clear-cut foresting.
I’ve seen clear-cut foresting and believe me, it ain’t pretty. It has a number of environmental faults even when (as is usually the case) you are harvesting a “managed forest” that was planted for the purpose.
But what good would it do to boycott Xerox? Recycling paper to office standards (and people like nice, clean white paper) isn’t environmentally pretty either, though it makes people feel good. This is a problem with several technological and legal solutions.
The well-intentioned people at ran.org could push for legalization of hemp. Heck, if it was OK for George Washington to grow it, we should be able to manage the problems that might arise. Hemp fibre is environmentally much better than wood fibre – and you can even press it (with binding agents) into wall boards and composite beams.
They could work to improve paperless information technologies. Mainly what is needed is a tough, lightweight, wireless and cheap display/input technology that will have many of the advantages of paper. As it happens, Xerox is working on that very thing.
Xerox is also working on a technology that could replace paper as portable, renewable reading matter.
The Xerox technology is called Gyricon. It’s composed of a silicon rubber compound with the thickness and flexibility of poster board. The Gyricon sheets contain thousands of plastic balls, black on one side and white on the other, suspended in oil. The balls act as pixels to display images that can be updated much the same way as with a monitor.
The beads are embedded in a large sheet, with each microcapsule suspended in oil to allow the beads to rotate in their orbits, says Robert Sprague, manager of the document hardware lab and electronic paper projects at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center.
Sprague says the paper could be powered by a matrix of transistors, such as those in laptop computer screens. Gyricon, like real paper, uses reflective light, so it would use less electricity.
The earnest protesters could study interface design and storage technologies to make paperless information transfer more useful. They could write innovative applications for the video iPod, or ways to use cell phones to work with databases. They could make better screen-preview applications so that less printing could The possibilities are nearly endless.
Or they could just fume about clear-cutting and put a “Boycott Xerox” sticker on a lightpole.