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Sustainable Paper Practices in the Office

Top Ten Tips to Go Green with Paper Products at the Office

What happened to the dreams of a paperless office where all the files were stored on computers and management believed in green paper practices? Apparently those dreams have gone the way of the dinosaur, and despite computers with hundreds of gigabytes of storage we continue to stack paper up to the ceiling, even though we don't really need it. If you want to become more eco-friendly at the office, a good place to start is with paper products. Here are some tips to help you get started with green paper practices.

 1. Keep Files in a Computer

Computers have a neat filing system with a search feature that can find a file you have misplaced in mere seconds. What happens when you lose a paper file; is there a search function for that? Paper files are really useless with modern technology, keeping files in the computer is far more eco-friendly and efficient. Simply remember to keep the information on backup disks, and it's just as safe as it would be on physical paper.

2.  Send Emails Instead of Paper

Both faxes and paper letters take far longer to send and are far less eco-friendly than sending an email. Emailing information is a great green paper practice, and doesn't have the risk of errors and distortions like a fax does, or the risk of loss like a letter does. Email is becoming more professionally acceptable, and a grammatically correct email with a company letter head is oftentimes just as appropriate as a letter would be.

3.  Print on Both Sides of the Paper

Many decent quality office printers have the capability to print on both sides of a page. This reduces your paper consumption by half, when you decide that you really do need to print something. This also means the document will take up less space in a file, saving space as well.

4.  Buy Recycled Paper

Of course, if you need to print, green paper practices include printing on recycled paper. Recycled paper uses 55 percent less water, and 60 to 70 percent less energy to produce than virgin paper does. You also save pristine forest from the lumber mill by buying recycled paper, as well as stopping paper from stacking up in a landfill.

5.  Use Misprints as Notepaper

Mistakes happen and not even a printer is perfect. A thrifty green paper practice is to gather the misprints in the office and use them as notepaper. You can even cut the paper up to use as small notepads, which is far cheaper and more eco-friendly than buying notepads from the office supply store.

6.  Reuse Shredded Waste Paper as Packing Material

All that paper that goes into the shredder makes great packing material. Styrofoam pellets are quite toxic and a huge pollution problem, especially in the ocean. But paper is recyclable, making is far more eco-friendly.

7.  If You Have To Get Rid of Paper, Recycle it

Sometimes you just have no other use for old paper, and it has to go. But green paper practices dictate that throwing paper out is the ultimate sin, so make sure there are plenty of recycling opportunities in your office, don't just have one bin sitting in a lonesome corner. Offer incentives or hold competitions to encourage employees to recycle instead of tossing paper.

 8.  Buy Minimally Processed Paper

Even recycled paper has the dubious distinction of heavy processing. You can help promote green paper practices by purchasing paper that has minimal chlorine bleaching. Sometimes this paper is referred to as "oxygen bleached".

9.  Reuse Boxes to Store Files

There's absolutely no reason why you should be buying those premade cardboard boxes to store files when shipments come in boxes every day. Most of the files put into long term storage are rarely accessed and don't need fancy labeling or bright white boxes. If you can't reuse the box for filing, why not use is as a shipping box or an office supply box instead?

10.  Print in Black and White

The ink used in printers is to a certain degree toxic, and using tons of it is certainly not a green paper practice. Use as little ink as possible by printing in black and white unless absolutely necessary. It's also more efficient to buy a printer with separate color cartridges. This is because the combo color cartridges have to be replaced whenever one color runs out, even if the other two are still full.

 We may not have a paperless society in the office yet, but hopefully we are on the way to a paper smart society. Help make your office more eco-friendly and sustainable by following the green paper practices above, and good luck in your endeavors!

Submitted by SuperGreenMe on Oct 1, 2008