The Paper Legacy

Birth certificates. Wedding albums. Autographed books and baseball cards. Paper mementos are among our most treasured possessions.

And although digital media is gaining an increasingly important role in today’s world, it can never replace the warm, tactile touch of paper. After all, scrapbooks don’t require startups or shutdowns. Magazines never crash. And while flash drives are a convenient way to store images, wearing one around your neck just doesn’t have the same effect as your grandmother’s antique locket. Computers may keep records — but paper leaves a legacy.

From the papyrus writings of Ancient Egypt to the U.S. Constitution, to works of art in museums around the world, paper connects us to our past, and preserves a valuable record for our future. But it’s not just about preserving art or culture — paper also has long-term benefits that extend into our personal and financial lives.

More and more, banks and credit card companies are asking us to “go paperless.” But is electronic billing really an effective long-term solution for storing financial data? Unbeknownst to consumers, many financial institutions archive documents online for only a few months. Users may not discover this until it’s time to file taxes, or document a transaction they thought was saved online. With paper, on the other hand, you can easily access records any time you like. Maybe that’s why, according to a 2006 survey by Jupiter Research, only 15% of online banking customers agreed to stop receiving paper statements from their primary banks.

But it’s not just about long-term storage. Paper records can also improve long-term financial planning. An actual bill in your inbox may seem to carry more weight — both literally and figuratively. With today’s influx of spam, it’s easy for important financial or legal information to become lost in a flood of e-mails, or worse, sent straight to your spam filter. It’s not uncommon for consumers to forget about bills when they’re not on paper; and missing a payment can have a serious affect on your credit score. It’s also easy to forget about online accounts when reporting earnings at tax time, which can cause even greater problems. Not exactly the type of legacy most of us want to leave.

What’s more, changing email addresses and hard-to-remember passwords can make it even harder to retrieve your important information when you need it. Add to that the dangers of crashed hard drives, or computers infected with viruses that send your information to thieves, and online security suddenly doesn’t seem as secure. According to Avivah Litan, Analyst at research firm Gartner Inc., many large companies now maintain “big data warehouses with our information stored electronically,” which can fall into the wrong hands, adding, “…they’re not getting that information out of people’s mailboxes.”

At Domtar, we understand and applaud the motivations many have for “going paperless.” However, we encourage paper users to consider the long-term benefits of paper in our lives, and remember that all papers are not created equal. When you buy paper made from responsibly managed forests, you’re not “killing trees.” You’re helping to plant new ones, and even preserve forestlands, so that trees — and you — can continue to leave a legacy for many years to come.

* Envelope Manufacturer’s Association Foundation Study Because It’s Personal – A Study of Consumer User and Preference for Envelopes

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