(This story has been updated. It was originally published March 5, 2007)

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Do you know where your margins are? And we don’t mean your profit margins. We mean your paper margins. If you could widen them right now — I know that’s getting personal — and reduce the font size that you’re typing in, you will have taken two steps toward saving paper.

Here are some next steps:

When you’ve finished that report or letter or diatribe, as the case may be, don’t hit the copy or print key. First assess if you really need a paper copy. Maybe you could email that excellent piece of work?

No? Ok, if you really need that paper copy, at least use both sides of the paper.

And make that thinner, white paper. Or better yet, make that thin, white, recycled paper.

Fast fact:

The typical US worker uses a whopping 10,000 sheets of paper – as much paper as is produced by pulping a full-grown tree – each year.

If you are binding and sharing multiple copies of your work, considering skipping the hard plastic cover. Who really needs a plastic cover anyway? A lot of manufacturing goes into producing plastic, we all know that. Wean yourself. Need a cover, use cardstock. True, there’s some work, even some chemical processing, that went into making that and getting it to your office store. So better yet, go coverless.

(Photo: winchesterva.gov)

(Photo: winchesterva.gov)

Go coverless and trim your waste! Now there’s a sexy slogan for a topic that wasn’t so sexy a minute ago.

Seriously, you’ve now helped the environment in a few small ways. Most important, you’re thinking every step of the way about how to cut out unnecessary use of paper and packaging. You are becoming Green right now!

Here, gleaned from experts, are a few more ways to further trim your office waste and help ease the burden on our landfills:

From Recycling 101, an educational website.

  • Switch to soy and vegetable-based printer inks. They are less polluting to produce and easier to recycle (no toxic petroleum-based inks in the cartridges). Vegetable-based inks also produce fewer VOCs (off-gassing) when printing.
  • Look for “tree-free paper” made from alternative fibers such as kenaf, cereal straw and sugar beet pulp.

From the State of California website, waste management section:

  • Provide trays to collect and reuse one-sided paper. Encourage employees to save and reuse paper printed on only one side at their desks. Collect paper that has been printed on one side for reuse in copiers and fax machines. Use one-sided paper to make scratch pads. Making ¼-, ½-, or full-size scratch pads is simple and easy by cutting and securing the makeshift pad with a paper or binder clip.
  • Provide trays to collect and reuse envelopes and file folders. Recycle large envelopes and file folders by providing centrally located trays for their collection. Your office can buy mailing labels with your return address and logo to place over old addresses on envelopes. Encourage employees to reuse these items.
  • Reduce unwanted mail. Contact mail senders to take your company’s name off their mailing list or mark unwanted first class mail “Refused, Return to Sender.” For more information, see Reducing Unsolicited Mail at Your Business.
  • Eliminate excess mailings. Trim mailing lists used to send information to your customers. Give customers opportunities to indicate if and how often they want to receive information. Your customers will appreciate your efforts to minimize unwanted mailings.

Try these changes and you will have started down a path that will save you personally, as well as lessening the load on the environment. Inevitably, you will discover other ways to save and recycle as you implement your personal paper reduction plan.

If you are an office manager or company owner and want to know more, there is a book that will take you on the full road tour of our over-packaged modern world and offer ways that consumers and businesses can pick up some of the litter and switch to more sustainable practices.

It’s called Paper or Plastic: Searching for Solutions to an Overpackaged World, written by a dedicated ecologist, Daniel Imhoff.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media