It may seem that the whole world is reading and receiving information digitally through apps, emails, and online newspapers, but in truth a large amount of paper is still being used each year, especially in offices.
According to statistics, more than 2 billion books are printed each year, alongside more than 24 billion newspapers and 350 million magazines.
Considering that of all of that only about half the available waste paper is recycled each year, think of how much ends up being disposed of in local dumps and waterways.
Although the average consumer has cut back on their personal paper usage, with the majority of this wasted paper originating from offices, schools, manufacturing and other commercial enterprises, there is still so much we can all do.
Here are some ways you can cut back on paper both at home and at the office:
Get rid of that junk mail
If you already haven’t done so, put a sticker on your mailbox refusing junk mail, free newspapers and advertising. Plus, do not put you mailing address on business cards or when signing up or registering for something, only leave your email and your phone information. This will force people and companies to contact you only through your electronic devices. If your address is mandatory when filling in forms (for example for your insurance company or for your phone provider), tell the person you are releasing this information to, that you do not wish to receive paper pamphlets or magazines, but only digital copies.
Embrace paperless and online subscriptions
Whether it’s paperless billing, or online banking, or digital newspaper/magazine subscriptions, ditch the hard copy.
Think before you print
“Do I really need to print this?” Ask yourself that question every time you catch yourself heading towards a printer. Cutting down on the amount of documents you print will not only preserve trees and help the environment, but it will also save you money on paper, on printers, printer ink, paper clips, folders, and pens.
If you really have to print though make you still cut your paper use by half by printing on both sides (set your printer to default to double-sided). Also try to increase margins and reduce font size and use print preview to avoid making mistakes and wasting paper unnecessarily.
Take paperless notes
If you’re used to leaving yourself or others notes around the office or around your home to help remember appointments, announcements, or grocery lists, switch from paper post-it notes to whiteboards.
Buy ebooks or use your local library
If you absolutely love reading on hard copies and won’t ever be convinced to make the permanent switch to ebooks, make good use of your local library or of second-hand book shops. Also, once you are done with your book consider lending it to others, or putting it back on the market for someone else to enjoy.
Tell family and friends about your lifestyle
You may be on the right track to eliminate paper from your life, and then all of a sudden, when your birthday or a special occasion comes around, you find yourself having to deal with cards and envelopes your well-meaning family and friends handed you, or even wrapping paper in which their gifts were delivered. By letting people around you know you’re intentions you will not only limit the amount of paper they bring into your home or office, but you may also inspire them to cut down on their waste by giving them sustainable, eco friendly alternatives to wrapping paper for example.
Paper we want to keep
Of course we realize that there will be cards or letters, or important documents that you can’t do without printing out, or that you can’t face throwing away. We’re not saying you should let go of every single piece of paper in your home or office, but you could also consider taking a picture, or scanning, a certain paper and keeping it as a digital file while correctly disposing of the hard copy.
It’s important though to remember that while we’re reducing our carbon footprint we shouldn’t put a strain on our digital footprint and on the amount of files and documents we keep stored in our inbox or on remote servers.
If you still find yourself absolutely needing paper in your home or in your office, then please choose to purchase recycled paper only, especially if it’s made from hemp, organic cotton, or pre-recycled paper materials. By choosing to use recycled paper you will be saving energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and keeping landfill space free for other types of trash that can’t be recycled.
Also remember to keep recycling bins handy, because as much as you try to keep paper out of your office or out of your home, some will still land on your desk or on your kitchen counter, so make sure that what paper you do come into contact with, is then disposed of correctly.
For more tips on how to create a greener and waste-free office space, please click here.