Paper ought to be a green resource. After all, it comes from trees and other plants, which are renewable resources. It is easy to recycle paper, and recycled paper is of noticeably better quality than just a few years ago. 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 of using less:
- When you must buy paper, prefer recycled paper.
- Receive bills electronically instead of through the mail, and pay bills online instead of writing and mailing a check.
- When you get an online receipt, print it to a file on your hard drive rather than printing it on paper.
- All those catalogs and things you get in the mail? Decide which if any you really want and ask the other companies not to send any more. You can find tips on how to accomplish that all over the Internet. (Save them to a folder in your browser or to Google Documents, of course, instead of printing them.
- 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. And when printing 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 have a printed recipe for the kitchen, you don’t need the 114 comments that follow it!
- Don’t recycle anything printed on only one side until you have used it for scrap paper. When I prepared the index for my latest book, I used 3×5 cards as I could not justify buying special indexing software. Now that I’m finished with that project, I have many years supply of shopping lists, etc. Why toss all those cards and then buy new ones for the same purpose?
- 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 note paper 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; wash cloths, dish towels, or rags to paper towels; and handkerchiefs to tissue paper (except, of course, 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 paper plates are environmentally preferable to plastic plates.)
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 entail the purchase of alternatives to paper, but they, too, will save money over time. Whatever enough people do can make a big difference to our environment.
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- Listed On: May 13, 2011