Beyond ‘‘green buildings:’’ exploring the effects of Jevons’ Paradox on the sustainability of archival practices

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Wolfe, Mark
Jevons’ Paradox Efficiency Paperless office Sustainability
The sustainability of archival institutions will be greatly affected by attempts to mitigate their carbon footprint to meet the challenges of global climate change. This paper explores how recordkeeping practices may enhance or undermine the sustainability of archives. To enhance sustainability, it is a common practice to increase the efficiency of recordkeeping practices. However, increases to efficiency may lead to a phenomenon known as Jevons’ Paradox. Jevons’ Paradox occurs when improvements in efficiency to a system or process result in an increase in use (instead of a decrease) of a resource. The failure of the paperless office demonstrates Jevons’ Paradox, and it has wide implications for the future sustainability of repositories. This paper advances the notion that ‘‘green’’ technologies alone are not enough to ensure sustainability. They must be deployed in concert with a systematic use of archival practices and theories for environmental sustainability to be ensured.