Heavy paper usage puts extreme pressure on the environment, from deforestation, illegal logging and extensive water use; so any efforts to change habits is a step in the right direction.
We’ve created this list of 32 ways to use less paper at home, school or work. Adopting a few points from this list will make a small change. If you want to read about the benefits of saving paper, read this blog.
Books can’t go in your recycling bin (unlike regular paper), so you’re better off finding other ways to reuse or recycle them. You could sell your books for cash or donate them to a charity shop.
Gone are the days when we had to jot everything down on a piece of paper; in fact, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find someone that exclusively uses paper. We have the technology that allows us to create word documents, presentations and all manner of publications, so we may as well take advantage of it.
If you’re a publisher, you could explore creating eBooks. While a significant portion of your readers will want physical books, there’s a percentage of your audience that read on electronic devices, so it’s good to appeal to everyone.
Further Reading: How to Publish an eBook
If your customers have email addresses, you could start sending them bills and receipts via email. Here are some of the advantages of paperless billing:
Recycled paper is better than virgin paper because it reduces the amount of wood we need for paper products. Recycled paper conserves resources because it requires less manufacturing power, as the fibres have already been processed once.
We make recycled toilet paper from paper that has already been used in homes and offices, so it doesn’t go into landfill. There are slight issues with BPA and transport pollution (if you have it delivered), but it’s a better option.
Rather than using numerous paper cups to keep yourself hydrated or increase your energy levels throughout the day, buy an eco-friendly thermal flask. The flask will keep your drink warm, and some in a variety of patterns and colours.
If you spend a lot of your time brainstorming or writing down chores for your kids, you could try a dry erase board. You’ll limit the number of sticky notes or paper you use and save paper in progress.
Transferring from kitchen towels is a lot simpler than you think, all you need is a set of microfiber cloths that you can keep washing and reusing. If you’re at work, you could consider using a towel or installing a hairdryer.
While they might look great at your kid’s birthday party or make the washing up less of a daunting task after a get-together, using paper cups and plates doesn’t contribute to paper reduction. If you’re worried about mess or breakages, use plastic cups (although check the sustainability of them) or recyclable ceramics – it’s only a bit of washing up!
Instead of buying a notepad, you could download a note-taking app on your phone – like Evernote. You won’t have to worry about losing your notes (providing you back them up), and you’ll always have access to them.
eReaders are an environmentally-friendly way of reading different types of media. Books are one of the most popular choices for eReaders. However, it’s entirely normal to love reading books.
You can use old newspapers to mulch your garden, which means preventing weeds from growing. While there is some debate as to whether the process is environmentally friendly, you’ll be saving wood in the process, and the toxins from the ink will break down in the soil.
Paper filters change the taste of the coffee because they don’t allow oils to pass through them. And while you can get biodegradable sheets, it’s better to avoid the use of paper altogether by getting a coffee machine with a metal or nylon filter.
You could try alternatives to traditional paper if you want to reduce your ‘paper footprint’, including stone paper, hemp paper or cotton paper.
While it may not sound like the most pleasurable way of disposing of mucus, handkerchiefs were the traditional way of doing so up until recent years (you’ve probably seen an older person with one). It turns out it was a good strategy after all as our older relatives were saving paper in the process.
While letters are a lovely, traditional way of sending communications between one another (or receiving bills and other documents you don’t want to receive!) if you have a computer or a smartphone you can share information via Google Drive or Dropbox.
If you have photos or documents you need to transport, use an external drive instead of printing them all out. They’re small, and you can usually attach them to a keyring, so there’s less chance of losing them.
We only usually find cloth napkins at fancy weddings, but how about bringing them into your home. They don’t have to be pristine white; you can get plain napkins that you can wash and reuse.
Bulk food buying is becoming more popular as people look to avoid buying packaged food that damages the environment. Traditionally, these businesses are quite small, but some big supermarkets are adopting this strategy.
While this may sound like something you don’t want to do, you could be helping save paper by using reusable sanitary towels. Cloth menstrual pads don’t contain irritating materials either.
Cloth nappies are better for babies as they’re more reliable and comfortable, plus, you’ll save loads of money with them. While you’ll use energy to wash them, it’s nothing compared to the energy expended in production and distribution.
You can’t prevent some junk mail; people post leaflets through your door all the time. However, if you’re having leaflets and offers labelled to you, you should be able to make contact with the company and tell them to stop sending junk mail.
Everyone loves a glossy magazine, and they can be keepsakes for some people. Likewise, you can’t beat sitting with a fresh pot of coffee reading the daily news. However, if you could trade one or both of those mediums for an electronic device, you’d be helping to save paper.
Sometimes we have to use paper, but it’s important to be responsible when you do so. Images of the 50 pieces of paper crumpled next to the office bin spring to mind here. If you can minimise the paper you use by using all of it, you’ll be contributing.
Before you print, think about it. How many copies do you need? Do you need to print the copy anyway? Could you email it? Show it on your laptop? If we mindlessly print all day, we’ll be using unnecessary amounts of paper, so it pays to think about it.
As the business world becomes more conscious about the impact it has on the environment, more environmentally-friendly practices start to emerge. You can now get recycled cotton business cards and banana paper. You could also take off your mailing address and include your email address.
If you’ve got a creative side, you could start upcycling your paper waste. Some of the examples that are scattered around the internet include wire framed newspaper trees, newspaper bunting and a wastepaper basket made from newspaper.
Yes, you can use paper for composting, and who thought banks and other institutions were sending us all those bills to annoy us. They were just providing plant fertiliser. Paper contains carbon, and carbon keeps your soil healthy, just don’t put too many coloured documents in your shredder.
We understand the concept of wrapping paper, but when it comes to saving paper, it doesn’t make any sense. Most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable anyway due to the amount of plastic in it. You could try plain brown paper or newspaper to wrap your presents. If you want to avoid paper altogether, you can use pillowcases or baskets.
Further Reading: 11 Creative Ways to Wrap Presents Without Wrapping Paper
If you do get mail then keep your envelopes, you may need to send a letter yourself, and you’ll save time, money and the environment by saving your envelopes.
If you need to print something, put your printer into duplex mode, so you use both sides of the paper. Also, copy and paste web pages into a word processor so the program formats it and uses less paper, and use a smaller margin of 0.75.
If you’ve looked at any of these points and thought ‘I can do that’, why not start now? If everyone that reads this blog implements a few of the points mentioned, we’ll all be making a positive impact.