I’ve moved out of my office while falling plaster and cracks in the wall (last years earthquake damage!) are repaired. While packing up I made a decision to see if I could get rid of most of the paper in my office (and not replace it). This is both for environmental reasons and also because I can never find anything when its a paper copy but a search through my hard drive is almost instantaneous.
The first thing I’ve done is get rid of almost all journal articles in paper form. I knew there would be a few exceptions to this where I have rare articles, but I intended that everything else would be kept as PDFs or not at all. I use the excellent Papers software for my literature.
This recycling worked quite well. I got rid of almost two filing cabinets, but I was expecting more. It turned out that some collections of papers, particularly those I use with students, just work better as physical copies. This is partly because some classic papers we need to go through together. I also found that some papers I am working with a lot (either because I need to read them 10 times to understand them or because they are important sources for something I’m writing) I find more comfortable as paper copies. In the end I kept more than I thought I would, but maybe this will change when I start the unpacking cull.
In all I estimate that I recycled about 600kg of paper (about the same as a large cow!). This truly amazing amount wasn’t mostly journal articles, but catalogs, old teaching material, all my back issues of Nature, Evolution, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Systematic Biology, TIG, manuals for old equipment, files full of old grant applications and folders of old data printouts.
I now need to buy a decent scanner and make sure I don’t start to restock my herd.