By Mark Cardwell

A journey of 1,000 miles, wrote ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, begins with a single step. That’s how officials with the Port of Sept-Îles see the first electronic-only version of its annual report, as one of its sustainability efforts. “Small things add up,” Port engineer Manon D’Auteuil said about the publishing of the Port’s e-annual report for 2013.  “And it is actions like this that help us to slowly make progress.”

The Port’s annual report has been available in both paper and electronic formats for several years. But discussions about scrapping the paper format began in the aftermath of a comprehensive environmental policy and management system the port adapted in 2007. Our goal is to improve the Port’s environmental practices and procedures, and to provide training for Port employees to help implementing the necessary changes. “We’ve been looking at all of the actions we could possibly take in terms of sustainable development,” said D’Auteuil.  She said small changes have been made over the past few years, including the use of electronic Christmas cards instead of mailing paper ones. A new filtered water distribution system that is connected to the municipal system was also installed, which has led to the elimination of bottled water.

The port now donates outdated electronics to local charitable groups, promotes carpooling by employees, and now operates an electric vehicle.

According to D’Auteuil, Port officials gave the green light to making a major move last year by publishing an e-only annual report. “We used to make hundreds of paper copies, a lot of which were eventually thrown out,” she said.  “It always cost a small fortune because of the high-quality, thick paper we used.” She added that reaction to the e-only annual report, which was released in June, has been nothing but positive.

“It was very well received,” said D’Auteuil. “No one complained about the lack of paper copies.”

The experience, she added, has encouraged Port officials to consider doing away with more documents in the facility’s day-to-day operations. “We are looking at how we can use more e-documents and less printing,” said D’Auteuil. She noted, for example, that many port employees now use two screens on their desks, as well as laptops, which means they have almost limitless access to digital correspondence. Port employees also use software programs that allow them to put comments in documents, further eliminating the need for paper copies. “You can’t change everything overnight,” said D’Auteuil “But we’re slowly making progress in our efforts to reduce the quantity of paper we use.”