Prevent Paper Waste (5 Tips for Earth Day)

Tomorrow is EARTH DAY!   On April 22, 2015, we'll celebrate our planet Earth and all it does for us. Let's give back and make sure we take care of it, too.

Image courtesy of digitalart at freedigitalphotos.net

In honor of Earth Day, I dare you to prevent paper waste and offer you several ways to do so below! 

Proper papering is one of the simplest things we can do for our planet, but it's also so ingrained in our culture that we waste a lot of paper every day, without meaning to.  We can all pay a bit more attention to the paper that is printed and wasted on our behalf.

As a teacher, I do my best to use paper efficiently (like tip #3), but I could probably still do less printing in general (#2 is something I'll work on).  Check out the tips below to see what you can do to limit the amount of paper that YOU use!

Five Simple Ways to Prevent Paper Waste:

Image courtesy of iosphere at freedigitalphotos.net

1. Opt for Online.  Still getting bills in the mail?  Opt-in to email notifications and online bill pay whenever possible. This is a simple way to reduce the amount of paper and postage that gets used on your behalf.  If you like to keep copies, you can always download the PDF and save all bills and receipts in the cloud. (Bonus: This will also help reduce your household clutter!)

2. Avoid Printing. Think before you print; is it really necessary to have a hard copy?  Will this quickly become outdated and rendered useless? Will you have to print a new version soon?  If you can, avoid printing until it's absolutely necessary.  Most of the time, you'll find you can easily send or work on the document online, no paper needed.

3. Print Double-Sided. If you must print, configure our printer or copy machine use both sides of the sheet. On copiers, this option is often identified as "1 --> 2 sided" or "2 --> 2 sided" (depending on the original copy) on the machine and is easy as pressing that one little button. This will halve the amount of paper every copy makes!

4. Use the Web. So many things that we do via snail mail or office memos can easily be done more efficiently online.  Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, Forms) are a godsend for these types of things. Instead of printing and editing and printing again, we can just virtually share files with coworkers, friends, or relatives to get things done. Instead of distributing voting cards or paper surveys, send a Google Form. (It will even automatically put your results in a nice spreadsheet!)  Instead of sending printed invitations to an event (work or social), send a nice e-vite online. Keeping track of the guest list will be so much simpler!!  Whatever it is you think you need to print and share, think again and consider how modern online tools can help.

5. Re-use.  When you've finished with a sheet of paper, can you re-use it?  If one side is blank (someone didn't follow tip #3!), save the sheet and use it later on as scrap paper. I do this all the time, because I love to handwrite my to-do lists and agendas (and then cross items off!).  Keep a bin specifically for tossing re-usable paper, and then when you later need a scrap of paper to jot something down or make a quick list, you know where to find it.

Bonus #6. Recycle!! Finally, when you've followed all the tips above and the paper is no longer re-usable, recycle it.  This is a no-brainer and comes with no excuses!

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There you have it!  Five (really SIX) easy ways to reduce the paper we use and trees we waste.  I'm really good about numbers 1, 3, 4, and 5, but definitely have room for improvement on tips #2 and 6.

What about you?  Where can you improve?  Let me know in the comments what you already do or what you'll aspire to do from here on out! 

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