America has a serious paper problem. In fact, according to the EPA, Americans created nearly 85 million tons of paper waste in 2006, nearly triple what they generated in 1960. And Renee Thomas of document automation company Esker reports that we use about 8 million tons of office paper every year. So what can you do to help solve the problem? Here are four quick ways to reduce the glut and turn the brief life cycle of paper into a long and sustainable loop:
- Buy a recycle bin and place it strategically: Try placing your recycle bin right next to the copier, printer or fax machine to make recycling easy and accessible for everyone. If you work in a larger office, buy a number of recycle bins and place them at convenient intervals from where people sit so no employee has to go very far to recycle. In the end, it’s all about location and accessibility.
- Install a markerboard: Unlike paper, markerboards and whiteboards provide a spacious surface where you can write and erase as often as you want. Plus, more people can see what you write on a markerboard than in your paper-based notes, especially if you buy a board that covers your entire wall. Electronic whiteboards and copyboards can help you expand your audience even more.
- Make double-sided printouts: Printers and copiers aren’t exactly the easiest machines to operate, especially when they’re not yours. But if you can figure out how to duplex your printouts on your own or ask someone who knows, you can cut your paper consumption in half.
- Click on the Print-Friendly icon when you print webpages: We all know from experience that something gets lost in translation when we print webpages onto paper. You get extra pages with one or two lines of text that you end up tossing without even reading. For example, a typical New York Times article looks nice in your browser but probably won’t translate the same way to paper. Click on the Print icon underneath the photo and you get a paper-ready version that you can print out and take to lunch or back to your cubicle.
But your efforts shouldn’t end there. If you can find creative ways to save paper without overdoing it, go for it. The Earth will thank you and future generations in the long run.