Think twice the next time you go to click that print button. Did you know the paper industry is the third largest industrial consumer of energy behind only the chemical and petroleum refining industries? It’s also the fourth largest industrial emitter of greenhouse gases and the third largest industrial user of water. Plus, the pulp and paper industry is responsible for massive amounts of toxic waste contaminating our air and water. Then, what becomes of all that paper? According to the EPA, paper accounts for about a third of all waste. That’s at least 84,000,000 tons a year!
Now, you don’t have to run out and chain yourself to a tree just yet. You can make a difference by reducing your own paper consumption, encouraging your friends and family to do likewise, and helping your employer devise and implement a paper conservation policy.
Here are a few ways to get you started:
- Go paperless. Opt for electronic statements from your bank, credit card companies, and utility providers. In addition to saving paper, electronic statements are more secure and easier to keep organized than paper statements.
- Avoid junk mail. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to opt out of receiving pre-approved credit card offers for five years. You’ll have to provide personal information like your Social Security number, but it’s confidential and will only be used by the credit bureaus to process your opt out request. You can also notify the three major credit bureaus that you don’t your personal information shared for promotional purposes. Click here for the addresses and a sample letter. Finally, register with the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service to opt out of receiving unsolicited mail and e-mail from companies that use the DMA’s Mail Preference Service.
- Go online. Read newspaper and magazines online instead of buying hard copies. Many retailers have electronic copies of their catalogs, sales flyers, and even coupons available on their web site.
- Bring your own cloth bags whenever you shop to avoid paper and plastic store bags.
- Rethink how you print. First, consider if something can be emailed rather than printed out. If you have to print, print only the specific text or pages you need and print on both sides of paper. Keep misprints for scrap paper (thus saving Posts Its). Print addresses directly on envelopes instead of printing mailing labels.
- Buy in bulk to reduce wasted packaging.
- Cut up old t-shirts and towels for rags and use them instead of paper towels.
- Keep a stock of dish and hand towels in the kitchen to use in place of paper towels. Toss them in a mesh bag until you have enough to run a load of laundry.
- Buy recycled paper and paper products. A ton of paper made from recycled paper (versus virgin paper) saves 4,100 kilowatt hours of energy, 7,000 gallons of water, 60 pounds of air emissions, and 3 cubic yards of landfill space.
- Buy unbleached paper. The bleaching process creates a lot of harmful waste that contaminates air, water, and soil.
- And never forget . . . recycle all the paper and cardboard you can!