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Paper: Such a necessary evil…

Paper… yep it’s inescapable … we use it constantly to communicate and to maintain records.  It’s used in packaging materials, cleaning products, even occasionally as a food ingredient. It’s certainly a necessary resource.

But do we have to use so darn much?

Some people save practically everything in paper form. Now, I’m not talking about the sentimental stuff like old concert ticket stubs or birthday cards.  I’m referring to those of us who keep piles of memo’s from ’05 that they still haven’t gotten around to reading , their dry cleaning bills for the past decade, Us Weekly’s from the Jen Aniston and Brad era…  some people may call these folks hoarders, I call ’em paper junkies.

Paper junkies: They print everything from the menu of the restaurant they plan to dine at for dinner to that 8 page spreadsheet they simply need one number from. Some paper addicts print because it’s easier on their eyes than reading from a PC, some simply out of routine. The problem is the click & print habit often leads to waste. 

I’ve earned the nickname “Enviro-Beth” around my office because of my keen interest in conserving the amount we as a department and company print.  I noticed that we’re giving out 40 + page reports to people who don’t have the time or simply don’t need/want to read them.  I suggested we refine our list of who receives such docs and in response, we’re making positive strides.

Now I know I sound a little like an overzealous paper nazi,  but my point is the little things add up.

According to the Clean Air Council the average American uses 650 lbs of office paper each year. They also say that Americans trash enough office paper each year to build a 12-foot wall from L.A. to New York City!

Here are some ways you can cut down on your paper waste:

  • Stop the junk mail! Seriously, how annoying is it to reach into your mail box and come up with a big pile of useless crap you have to waste precious time sifting through? Get your name off those list and lose 41 pounds a year! (of environmental waste & energy)
    http://www.41pounds.org/ & Catalog Choice
  • Refuse paper receipts & ATM receipts. I have started making it a point to ask the cashier to hold off on printing my receipts. If it’s just gum, coffee and an apple at Wawa is it necessary?  Today’s easy on-line banking eliminates the need to keep alot of the receipts we’re handed.
  • Cut down on using paper towels & napkins around the house.  Instead use reusable dish towels/rags to clean up whenever possible. Cloth dish towels are an investment you can use over and over again. Use old T shirts or shorts to dust. I have even been known to grab tee’s and socks lying in my hamper and use them for a quick dusting.  ( Yes, I do wash them after!)
  •  Use scrap paper instead of notebooks! ( I learned this early on from my Mom who was always writing notes on dry cleaner receipts and envelopes from old mail.) A few months ago I started collecting the paper my co-workers planned to toss (I have a couple big filing folders labeled Paper! for them to throw in what they planned to discard.) I’ve definitely gotten made fun of in the office, but I’ve found it’s easy to forgo notebooks & start jotting meeting notes on the back of scrap paper. Use PCs to electronically save the important stuff!

We’d love to hear some other ways you save paper

Posted by Beth

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Beth is a Health and Wellness expert who believes sustainability goes hand-in-hand with self care. She’s the girl whipping up kombucha cocktails at parties, and extolling the benefits of canning vegetables to anyone who will listen. View all posts by Beth Funari

1 thought on “Paper: Such a necessary evil…

  1. My large organization just created a recycling program, and each employee now has a small paper recycling bin at their desk for office paper. This was a huge company-wide policy that took years to instill, but I am glad to be apart of it. I think Beth has a good idea to become an office advocate (or overzealous paper nazi) for paper recycling within your own organization, or department, to help minimize waste.

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