7 Reduce Your Paper Consumption

Have you ever thought about how much paper you consume on a daily basis and how much of that paper is quickly thrown into the blue bin shortly after you read it? Newspapers, magazines, meeting agendas, office memo's, notes from your kids school.......the list goes on and on. 

Paper production is the 3rd most energy intensive industry and the 4th largest carbon dioxide emitter. It is also very chemical intensive with both air and water emissions.  North America is the largest consumer of paper with each person consuming an average of 229kg/year. That is 46% of the global paper consumption.  Europe is not far behind at 36 % of the global paper consumption and 178.7kg/year per capita.

If I recycle the paper does it really matter how much I consume?

The process of recycling the paper has an environmental impact with its emissions, water usage and transportation. While paper recycling is a great alternative to the paper being thrown in the landfill, the best way to reduce your paper footprint is to not consume the paper in the first place.
What about the argument that paper producers plant more trees than they consume so reducing paper consumption is bad for the environment?

There is so much more that goes into making paper than just the trees the pulp comes from. While it is great when companies replant trees in place of those they have harvested this does not negate the environmental impact of manufacturing the paper, which is full of chemicals. It also does not account for the impact of transporting the rolls of paper to the customers who use it to make newspaper, books, magazines and office paper. It also does not include the chemicals used to print ink onto the paper and then transport that finished good to you. 

10 Ways to Reduce Your Paper Consumption

1. Don't print anything. In fact, don't even add a printer to your computer. I had a crazy no print streak going that was sadly broken by a work trip to the UK and the need for a letter for immigration. But right after I was back on the clock again. If people know you don't print things they will eventually stop printing things for you too. Add a note to your emails signature reminding people to think before printing your emails. Don't print agenda's or meeting minutes either. Bring your laptop to all meetings and share with attendees electronically.

2. Read newspapers online. This will not only reduce the amount of paper you are consuming but also the transportation costs to get the newspaper to your front door every morning.

3. Share magazine subscriptions with friends and family.  If a magazine is available online then read it there, but a lot still are only available in print. If you really need to have a subscription then find others who currently have it as well and cancel all your subscriptions but one and share!

4. Make your own un-paper towel. You don't have to get fancy like half the pins on Pinterest. Just cut up some old shirts and use those in place of paper towel. Keep a bin under your sink to store the used cloth and then just add to your laundry once a month.

5. Stop getting a phone book. Opt out and stop getting your phone book. Just make sure you cancel all of them as there can be several different versions that end up on your doorstep each year.

6. Use cloth handkerchiefs instead of kleenex. There is something just lovely about a handkerchief yet no one seems to use them anymore. Make or buy some that go with your personality (hello Etsy!).

7. Eliminate your junk mail. You can try putting a sign on your mailbox or door saying you don't want junk mail but that is not usually effective. Try these tips from Eco-Novice instead.

8. Use cloth instead of toilet paper. This may be a hard one for a lot of people so if you can't go all the way with it think about using cloth just for pee and only in the bathrooms your family uses. Don't remove the toilet paper from the bathroom your guests use.

9. Say no to receipts. There are so many toxins in receipts that it is just better to say no. Always ask before they have printed it because sometimes they can chose if they want to print it or not. If you are staying at a hotel ask them to email you the receipt instead of printing it off.

10. Sign up for electronic billing. Almost all companies will provide you with electronic billing if you register. Not only do you save on the paper used to print your bill but also the multiple envelopes and the stuffers they put inside each bill. 

What is your best tip to reduce paper consumption?
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Newspaper photo credit: Ryan.Berry via photopin cc


  1. I am constantly trying to reduce my paper use. Not just for the environmental impact but for my own sanity! All that paper drives me crazy, makes a cluttered mess and I usually can't find what I need anyway. I use my phone for coupons. There are many apps out there and more stores are letting you show your coupons on your phone instead of printing.

  2. Excellent tips! I have a problem with #5. I've called ... and written ... and called (again) ... and they still deliver them to my door. I live in an apartment and I suspect that, since people come and go in apartments, they just go ahead and deliver them. I've recently learned that there are artisans who use them in their projects ... schools might also use them for projects. It's not ideal but at least they aren't going to a landfill. Of course, they are also recyclable. But I'd so love to see printing of them discontinued. I will continue my search for a way to get OFF their list. Any ideas?

  3. I nearly kissed the cashier at Bed Bath and Beyond when she let me use the electronic 20% off coupon from my device vs having to print it off.

  4. Apartments are tricky. Usually they just deliver a large stock for the whole building vs what individual units wants. Normally if it is left at your door it is the super that is doing it (from the big stack that are left in the lobby).

  5. Thanks for the shout out, girlfriend!

  6. Great idea! I need to work on this. Thanks for the list!

  7. Great suggestions! I need to print this out. Oh wait, doh! :)