Going green — and saving it, too

Published 7:45 pm Wednesday, November 17, 2010

One fortunate side effect of the nation’s move toward “greener” policies and procedures has been a reassessment of things that we all have come to take for granted through the years. Upon closer scrutiny, some of those things reveal their essential character. Others turn out to be superfluous.

Among those things that modern society has begun to learn to do without is paper. The world still hasn’t become the paperless paradise that futurists once promised the computer would deliver, but environmentalism and advancing technology have moved us closer than ever.

Suffolk’s city council is catching up to this wave with the recent announcement that the city’s administration will quit automatically printing agenda packets for council members and the media.

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At the very least, the city’s copying machines can now breathe a sigh of relief. The thickness of city council agenda packets sometimes can be measured in inches. Resolving to save a copy of every agenda package required in the past an investment of resources in time and space far beyond the value of those documents. File cabinets filled quickly, and stacks in a corner soon became unstable.

With the advent of email and other digital document systems, however, it has become possible to hold the years worth of City Council agendas in the palm of one’s hand. Searching through those documents has never been easier, and carrying them from place to place no longer requires advance planning beyond remembering to carry a smartphone along for the trip.

There are sure to be those who find it hard to adapt to the new digital format of the council’s agenda packages. But public officials do not have the luxury of holding onto old habits in the face of progress. They must be prepared to adjust to changing circumstances, especially when it comes to saving their constituents money and providing government services that are more responsive to their needs.

It might be a small matter in the scheme of things, but the move away from printing city council agendas shows a healthy level of concern, not just for the environment, but also for taxpayers wallets and pocketbooks.