We read so much text on computer and phone screens, but we are still using tremendous amounts of paper. In the U.S., paper usage is recorded within the hundreds of millions of metric tonnes each year.
Take a second to look around your home or your office and you’ll see. Paper is still everywhere. There’s receipts, junk mail, and printed documents. The negative environmental impact of paper is exaggerated. But does that mean we shouldn’t cut down?
Paper usage creates clutter and costs money. American companies spend an estimated $8 billion per year on paper. Here are some things you can do to lessen the impact.
Opt out of Paper Receipts and Statements
Your bank should provide a service for sending financial reports via email. This will avoid the need for mailing you paper statements. Most online stores will also give you the option of putting all receipts and invoices in electronic form. That paper invoice in your Amazon package is just in the way of the actual product you ordered anyway, right? Companies will be happy to send you this information via email as it also saves them money on postage.
In physical stores, you should decide before reaching the till whether or not you really need a receipt. If you’re buying expensive electronic goods, a receipt is pretty important. But many stores also provide email receipt services if you provide your email address. Alternatively, you can simply ask the cashier not to print out a receipt. Most stores will be happy to do this.
Dealing with Mail
Double-check all your mail subscriptions. Are there some you don’t really need? Many magazines now come in digital format. Look into replacing physical magazine subscriptions with digital versions. If you are persistently receiving junk mail from a particular company, try contacting that company to see if you can prevent it in future.
It’s possible to have all of the mail you do want sent to a different address, where it will be scanned and e-mail to you. It is then recycled responsibly. Websites like physicaladdress.com provide such a service. This doesn’t exactly negate the need for that paper usage, but it does keep your home and office clear of paper.
Put a Curb on Printing
“Think twice before you print” is now pretty old advice, But it doesn’t seem that a lot of people are following it. The printing of unnecessary documents is still rampant. At my previous office job, I was sat right next to the printer and the shredder. I would see people print out an email, read the printed version, then shred it. Why? My only guess is that it helps that person feel like they’re engaging in high-level, super-important business.
Make sure this kind of thing isn’t occurring at your home or in your office. Put strict limits on printing. One way to do this is to buy less paper. People often believe an office has inexhaustible supplies of paper. Get less and tell them you have less. You should also consider encouraging people to use both sides of a piece of paper. Many printers allow this, and if they don’t, the user could just flip the piece of paper the other way around and place it back in.