April 3, 2012

Using Less Paper to Save More Than Trees

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 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 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’s how to get started:

Go electronic. 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. 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. Send electronic invitations instead of paper invitations.

Avoid junk mail. Call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to opt out of receiving pre-approved insurance and 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 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.

Rethink how you print. First, consider if something can be distributed electronically, via email, an Intranet, or the Internet, rather than printed out. If you have to print, print only the specific text or pages you need. Set your printer’s default settings so everything is automatically printed double-sided. Keep misprints for scrap paper. Print addresses directly on envelopes instead of printing mailing labels.

Be picky about your paper. Opt for recycled paper and paper products when you can. 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. Also look for unbleached paper. The bleaching process creates a lot of harmful waste that contaminates air, water, and soil.

Remember that chances to save paper are all around you. Bring your own reusable bags whenever you shop to avoid paper and plastic store bags. 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. And finally, always recycle your paper and cardboard products.

Follows these tips and encourage others (including your employer) to do the same and you’re on your way to saving more than trees.


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