Paper versus digital: fueling the debate over usages and impacts

Comparative and projective study

“Please consider the environment before printing this email” was an extremely effective public awareness campaign.  Consequently, people are quick to associate paper with deforestation, or paper with waste, at a time when digital, offering dematerialization, figures as the alternative. Today, the popularity of digital tools is such that, due to a lack of perspective, we run the risk of forgetting the unknowns, of which many still remain. From many standpoints (e.g. environmental, social, health and cognitive), doubts remain as to the supposed advantages of digital and dematerialization.

2% Share of datacenters in world energy consumption

Gaining perspective on a debate often devoid of meaning

The conviction that paper is responsible for deforestation and that the paper industry is highly polluting remains firmly anchored in the collective imagination. Apart from environmental issues, many prejudices against paper exist and exert an impact in healthcare, learning, safety and accessibility. At the same time, the uncertainties surrounding the digital media actually reflect a profound ignorance of their impacts and excesses in society.

Yet frontal “paper versus digital” comparisons are frequent. With this in mind, weave AIR helped ecofolio produce a non-comparative, factual and neutral report on the status of current knowledge about both of these media, approaching the topic from multiple perspectives (e.g. environmental, socio-economic, role in learning, as well as social and cognitive impacts).

4 sets of mood boards were created to illustrate the communication scenarios.

Drawing on this “gold mine” of ideas, we submitted recommendations relative to communication to ecofolio. The question was how to avoid sterile, pointless debate over the supposed opposition between these two media, knowing that both are essential in everyday life.?

4 communication scenarios were presented in support of a position against the idea of total dematerialization. Each scenario presented a concept expressed by means of mood boards (storytelling + visuals).


For instance, the point of “Reveal the invisible” is to alert the general public to the fact that dematerialization is a myth. What it actually does is shift impacts elsewhere, so they still exist but can’t be seen.

“This study allowed me to take a step back to get a fresh look at our professional and personal use of digital technology and to highlight false good ideas.”


Adrien Beton, Manager, weave.air

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“The weave AIR team is very dynamic and generates enthusiasm, which facilitates internal communication and helps unlock creativity.”


Seheno Ratsimbazafy, Head of environmental studies, Ecofolio