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How to Reduce Your Paper Usage

The Paper Trail Reducing our Paper Consumption

Reducing the amount of paper you use daily is easier than you think. It just might take some extra effort on your part at he beginning to start out, but once it is all on in place, it should be second nature to go paperless!

Just think of the impact your actions will have- about 90% of paper comes from trees, the majority of which are not sustainably harvested. By reducing our paper use we can reduce our support for this generally non-renewable industry. Therefore, here are 10 ways in which you can jump on the paperless bandwagon! I hear it is a fun ride.

1- Refuse junk mail. The USA uses approximately 68 million trees each year to produce 17 billion catalogues and 65 billion pieces of direct mail. Put up a “no junk mail” sign at your house or opt-out of it all together by going to Catalogue Choices.

2-Reduce the amount of documents and emails that you print at home and at work. The average daily web user prints 28 pages a day. Crazy! Do you really need to print everything out? Probably not. Just keep your emails for future reference.

3-Send e-cards instead of buying and sending paper cards. If everyone in the US sent one less holiday card, we would save over 50,000 cubic yards of paper and in China, 10,000 trees that are cut down annually to make holiday cards. This past holiday season we sent holiday e-cards out to our family and they seemed to enjoy them.

4-Invest in an E-reader to read books, magazines and newspapers. Every year in the United States, over 2 billion books, 359 million magazines and 24 billion newspapers are published. The price of e-readers is drastically reducing and are becoming more affordable. I personally love my e-reader- it is so handy. I don't have to lug around heavy books if I want to read while away from home. Another option if the e-reader is not for you-checkout  your local library and best of all it is free.

5-When printing out documents- print on both sides. If offices throughout the USA increased the rate of two-sided photocopying from the 1991 figure of 20% to 60%, they could save the equivalent of about 15 million trees. I have trouble with this one.I never know how to put the paper in the printer so it prints on both sides!

6-Use recycled paper or FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) paper. Every ton of recycled paper used saves about 17 trees and the process of recycling paper uses 60% less energy than manufacturing virgin timber paper. Reading labels doesn't only apply to food- read your paper labels, ask questions and find out where the paper comes from.

7-Use cloth towels to dry your hands. The average person alone uses 2,400 – 3,000 paper towels a year at work. Hang up cloth towels in the bathroom and kitchen to avoid using paper towels. If you have to use paper towels buy “made from 100% recycled paper.”

8.Use cloth napkins instead of paper ones. To make one ton of paper towels, 17 trees are cut down and 20,000 gallons of water are consumed. Invest in cloth napkins such as PeopleTowels or repurpose old t-shirts or clothing, which make for great cloths and remember to bring them with you when you are on the road to reduce waste and paper usage.

9.Switch to electronic bills, statements and payments. In one year, the average American can save: 6.6 pounds of paper, 63 galloons of water and 4.5 gallons of gasoline by switching to electronic statements, bills and payments. As well as, 171 pounds of greenhouse gases could be saved, which is the equivalent of not driving 169 miles, planting two trees and allowing them to grow for 10 years, or preserving 24 square feet of forest from deforestation. I find it more convenient to use electronic bills and such. It is all in once place on your computer.

10.Use discarded paper for scrap paper. Americans discard 4 million tons of office paper every year – enough to build a 12-foot high wall of paper from New York to California. Reuse everything. Keep all thise scraps and you never know when you will need a tiny piece of paper!

Just remember, when you are about to use a piece of paper or print an email- throwing it out to only have it sit in a landfill causes the paper to rot. This in turn will emit methane gas which is 25 times more toxic than CO2. It is the little things that add up and make a difference even one piece of paper at a time

So, which number are you going to begin with to reduce your paper trail today?

Disclaimer CMP.LY/5

Sources: iD2 CommunicationsPeople Towels, and Pay it Green

The Paper Trail Reducing our Paper Consumption

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Reader Interactions


  1. Sarah says

    These really are great tips. I’ve always wondered about the junk mail. There is a national “do not call list”, so why not a “do not mail” list? I HATE receiving all the circulars that I don’t even open! I’m so glad there is a service for this now. Sharing and stumbled.

  2. Marie says

    We do a lot of these in our house already. And a lot of our paper comes from having 4 school age children, we got every handout x4!

  3. Small Footprints says

    Great tips! I’m struggling with a “cousin” to ideas 6,7 & 8 … I want to use cloth for messy jobs like cleaning my cast iron pans but, since I season them with oil cleaning them with cloth means that the rag gets oily. So I don’t want to toss them into a washer with other clothes … and I don’t want to do a load just for them. I suppose I could hand wash them with dish washing liquid which might cut the oil. Hm … it’s a dilemma! Any advice?

  4. Mrs green @littlegreenblog.com says

    Fantastic to be reminded of all these little steps we can take. Does the average person really print out 28 pieces of paper a day? I find that astonishing and scary! I’m just not sure about an ebook; I do love curling up in bed with a book or magazine; it’s one of my eco guilty pleasures. I’m yet to be convinced to make the switch…

  5. Jennifer says

    Great tips! I’m down with everything except the e-reader, even though it totally makes sense from an environmental rationale. I’ve been in love with paper forever — at one point or another, I’ve been an avid letter writer, an aspiring origami artist, a book collector. I love the smell of old leatherbound and gilt books and the smooth weight and texture of cotton-rich paper. I feel like there’s an intimacy to be found in reading a book you’ve read many times before; it falls open to your favorite spots, has specific memories attached to the physical book (creases from your hands, water spots from being taken on vacation). I dunno…I guess it’s all a bit silly. I try to compensate by only buying used books and have gone paper free for things I don’t want physical copies for.

    • Good Girl Gone Green says

      I know lots of people that like the physical books for reading. I am not going to lie I do miss that, but I like to have all my recipe books and such in one place when I am traveling around. It is so day to just get my recipes right off my iPad! But if you are buying mostly second-hand than the footprint is so much less! 🙂

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