Paper surrounds us each and every day. It’s in the books you read, the paper bags you bring home from the grocery store, and the printer at your office. It’s in magazines and newspapers, cardboard food boxes and take-out containers. We use paper constantly, whether we notice it or not.
But paper production is incredibly resource intensive and isn’t the most sustainable process for the environment or human health. Using less paper means there’s, in turn, less demand for paper to be produced. Creating less of this substance cuts energy use, climate change emissions, and limits pollution in the water and air. Cutting down trees to make paper also contributes to a worldwide deforestation crisis, allowing our forests to go bare and taking away necessary ecosystems and animal habitats.
That’s the problem. But what’s the solution? It’s easier to make an impact when you know exactly how to guide your efforts in doing so. We’re all about incorporating small changes into your daily life that, between all of us, add up to huge, concrete change. So what can you do, exactly, to limit your paper usage on a daily basis?
- First step – assess your paper consumption. Take a week to examine – morning through night – the paper you use. Write down a list of all the sources. Don’t let disguised paper (like hot coffee cups or cereal boxes) sneak off your list. An accurate assessment will make it clear where you need to cut paper.
- At the grocery store, go fully reusable. Perhaps you’ve already started using a reusable grocery bag; some towns and cities nationwide have adopted ordinances that incentivize residents to bring reusable bags by charging for plastic and paper bags. Take your shopping a step further by bringing small reusable bags to carry produce and reusable glass containers to store bulk dried goods like beans and grains. With a little foresight, paperless grocery shopping is possible – and even practical!
- When you get home with all those groceries and you’re ready to eat, always use reusable dishware and silverware. Particularly when you have people over, it’s easy and convenient to pull out the paper cups, plates, forks, and knives. Avoid this by using your dishes and spending a few extra minutes cleaning them, or throw them in the dishwasher. Use cloth napkins during mealtime, and old rags (even an old t-shirt) to wipe up spills and messes.
- Do you receive a ton of junk mail, catalogs, and phone books at your home, just waiting to be relegated to the recycling bin? It’s time to opt out. Visit YellowPagesOptOut.com to let phone book publishers know that you no longer want to receive their books. Visit Catalog Choice to opt out of junk mail and catalogs. Bring your searches online for efficient, paperless information.
- On that note, it’s easy to translate many of your printed materials to the online world. Buy books and magazines on a Kindle or other computer-based device, rather than buying new books (if you prefer the paper version, buy used). Newspapers and magazines put all their content online these days and can be easily delivered to your inbox instead of your doorstep. Even e-cards can be translated online for fun, animated well wishes.
There you have it! A 5-step process to decreasing your paper use. How do you go paperless? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below.