By Jonelle KimbroughApril 7, 2016
If you have ever felt that you were drowning in a sea of white paper at your desk, you are not alone.
The average American office uses 12.1 trillion sheets of office paper annually. In terms of weight, Americans use 85 million tons of paper, or about 680 pounds for each person, every year.
Clearly, paper is a popular commodity, but its massive consumption has impacts on both our natural and fiscal resources.
According to Ecology Global Network, about 4 billion trees worldwide are felled to manufacture paper each year. Paper production is the third most energy-intensive of all manufacturing industries, accounting for 12 percent of energy consumption in the industrial sector. Paper mills are the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in manufacturing. The creation of paper from virgin materials is also a water intensive industry, and it produces copious amounts of waste water.
The environmental impacts of paper do not end with its production, though. Paper accounts for half of business waste and is one of the largest single components of landfill waste. About 25 percent, or 30 million tons, of landfill waste is paper.
Paper does not come cheap, either. Millions of dollars are expended on paper supplies and paper management by businesses.
And, despite the constantly growing number of electronic mediums available to conduct business, worldwide paper consumption has increased by 400 percent in the last 40 years and is expected to double by the year 2030.
The U.S. Army Reserve could potentially reduce its paper use by 20 to 25 percent if everyone remains mindful of conservation. "Paper usage reduction in the Army Reserve will help reduce operating costs and improve business efficiency," said Tyrone Cook, Army Reserve Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator. "Environmentally, it will help reduce the negative impacts associated with paper usage such as resource use, pollution from processing and production, transportation costs and disposal costs."
Consider these paper reduction tips for your office.
• Adopt a "think before you copy" attitude, and print or copy only what you need.
• Print or copy on both sides of the paper, and set your office printers to double-sided ("duplex") mode by default.
• Print documents that could become outdated -- such as business cards and letterhead -- on demand instead of storing stocks of documents.
• Store and share files electronically instead of maintaining hard copies.
• Archive emails in electronic folders instead of printing them.
• For document editing, use the electronic proofing features in word processing and PDF programs instead of editing on hard copies.
• Use electronic presentation programs or white boards instead of paper for briefings and presentations.
• Opt out of individual mailings of catalogs, journals, annual reports, magazines and other publications, and share copies with your colleagues instead.
• Read publications online instead of on hard copies.
• Reduce paper flow by conducting processes such as banking, invoicing and ordering online.
• Use labels to mark file folders instead of writing on the folders directly.
• Reuse paper supplies as much as possible. For instance, use a blank section of unneeded paper as a scratch pad.
• Share unneeded or unwanted paper supplies with your colleagues.
• Choose the most environmentally sound paper possible when purchasing. Choose the lightest paper weight available.
• Minimize your use of packaging materials when shipping, and reuse packaging materials such as cardboard boxes and "peanuts" as much as possible.
• Use reusable cups, dishes and utensils instead of disposable products. Replace paper napkins with cloth napkins and paper towels with sponges.
Visit usarsustainability.com for more ideas on reducing office paper.
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