Another Blast-from-the-Past best-of article, from October 2007.
(Photo credit: geese)
Consider the lowly receipt. 3-5 inches of paper, a little bit of ink (or worse yet, a coating of a thermal imaging substance, that responds to heat) all with the aim of 2 things.
First, a receipt gives you a record of your purchase, for your records.
Second, a receipt acts as a flag, indicating that you’ve actually paid for that object you’re carting out of the store (or bringing back to return).
Wow. Think about how many receipts you collect, every day, for every purchase you make. Think about that much paper, times 6+ Billion people on Earth. Pretty big pile of paper, EVERY day, huh?
Here’s a thought. How many of those receipts you get every day are computer generated? Most of them, right?
What would happen if you had a token, that you could hand over, when you’re about to get a receipt, that they could store an electronic version of that receipt on? For example, a USB flash drive. Most of us who keep receipts are keeping them for bookkeeping purposes, for taxes, business (which is to say for taxes), or to track our personal budget. Wouldn’t it be handy if the receipts were machine readable, so that you could just import them into your spreadsheet, or tax software?
This doesn’t have to do away with paper receipts entirely, to be useful… But if even 10% of paper receipts were done away with, it would effectively reduce the amount of pulp wood being turned into paper, run thru a computer once, and then thrown away in 3-5 inch scraps.
Oh, you say, but what about those coupons that some places print on the receipt for you? Well, it’s just as easy to put a non-modifiable file on the token, that indicates that you are due one “coupon deal”, that can be read, next time you’re at the store.
Again, it’s about doing away with the paper… about reducing the “intentional” waste stream. Things that are being created knowing that 90% of the population is going to throw them away first chance they get. If it’s stored to the token in the appropriate format, and you needed a hard copy of it, you could print it out… but the 90% of transactions that don’t really wind up needing that don’t waste the paper.
Let me know what you think if this simple, small proposal to save the Earth. Leave us a comment.
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