Paper ought to be a green resource. After all, it comes from trees and other plants, which are renewable resources.
Unfortunately, the process of making paper fouls the water and air near where it’s manufactured. And all those trees would be much more useful doing what they do best: making oxygen, capturing carbon dioxide, holding the soil, making a habitat for wildlife, etc.
Americans use about 700 pounds of paper per capita every year, more than anyone else. As with other resources, we use up–waste–more than our share. Here are some ways to use less paper:
- When you must buy paper, prefer recycled paper. It is easy to recycle paper, and recycled paper is of noticeably better quality than it used to be. You can get 100% recycled printer paper by the ream or save money with 2,400 sheets at once.
- Receive bills electronically instead of through the mail. And pay bills online instead of writing and mailing a check.
- All those catalogs, credit card offers, and other junk mail? Create an account at Catalog Choice or DMA Choice (the Direct Marketing Association website) and opt out of the kinds of mail you don’t want.
- If you must print something, print on both sides of the paper. Adjust the margins to make them narrower, therefore likely to use less paper.
- When you print something you find online, look for a “printer-friendly” option. If there isn’t one, copy and paste what you need into a word processor. For example, if you want to print a recipe, you don’t need the 114 comments that follow it!
- Use anything printed only on one side of the page for scrap paper and note-taking. And, of course, don’t use fresh paper for those purposes. If you have access to anything printed on 3×5 cards, hang onto it. I’m a cataloging librarian. Librarians don’t use card catalogs anymore, and library vendors don’t send anything on cards anymore either. But when libraries dumped their card catalogs, I grabbed them. I kept a lot of the other cards I got, too. I have a lifetime supply of cards for shopping lists. And I write items clear across the card and scratch them off as I buy them. That way, I can use the same card several times until it fills up.
- You don’t need a whole sheet of paper all the time. Cut your scrap paper into the sizes (half sheet, quarter sheet, etc.) that you can fill up.
- Don’t take notepaper to the library or other places with self-service printers. Other patrons will deposit plenty for you in the recycling containers!
- Prefer cloth napkins to paper napkins; washcloths, dish towels, or rags to paper towels, and handkerchiefs to tissue paper. Basically prefer anything cloth to any disposable paper except toilet paper.
- Prefer reusable plates to paper plates, even for casual entertaining or picnics. If you must use disposable plates, you can get some made from sustainably harvested bamboo. (But even paper plates are environmentally preferable to disposable plastic plates. And you can cut them up and compost them.)
Some of these tips will save you lots of money over time with no upfront costs, because you are either substituting computer space for paper or reusing paper. Some mean buying alternatives to paper, but they, too, will save money over time.
Whatever enough people do can make a big difference to our environment. Let’s start to use less paper—and keep looking for more ways to reduce wasting it.