Few people will argue that reducing our dependence on paper products has a plethora of advantages—the two biggies being that it’s good for the pocketbook and the environment. So why then is it so hard to commit to going paperless? The biggest barrier could very well be the term itself. To most of us, paperless means an all-or-nothing endeavour. The reality, however, is much different. With little effort and realistic expectations, anyone can easily reduce the amount of paper they use. And that’s the real goal behind a paperless initiative: small changes that make big differences. As experts like Lindsay Coulter with the David Suzuki Foundation agree, there are several ways to go about a more sustainable way of life. Here are five tips to get you started.
The first step in reducing your paper consumption is to assess what is coming in to your mailbox. This includes everything from junk mail and bills to paid subscriptions, such as newspapers or magazines. You’ll be surprised at how much paper you deal with but don’t actually need or want. The Canadian Marketing Association offers a free-of-charge “Do Not Mail” service where consumers can have their names and addresses removed from marketing mailing lists, thereby reducing the amount of offers that come to their homes. Similarly, Canada Post will stop delivering what’s referred to as “Neighbourhood Mail,” (unaddressed ad mail) if a resident places a “No Junk Mail” note on his or her mailbox.
If you do nothing else to cut down on your paper usage, sign up for electronic bills and statements—it’s user-friendly and offered by a variety of institutions.
Conduct as much business as possible electronically—including having your store receipts e-mailed to you. Rather than printing reports or contracts, consider saving documents as PDFs and reading them on a tablet instead. DropBox and Google Docs (among others) are also great tools for sharing and/or saving documents electronically. Similarly, several services exist for document scanning, signing, faxing, as well as invoicing, billing and accounting—all of which eliminate paper from the equation. If you must print, be sure to use both sides of the paper.
Rather than scribbling lists on small sheets of paper that are easily lost, type them on your smartphone—you’ll save paper and time searching for lost lists.
Lastly, consider choosing e-vites and e-cards to celebrate life’s milestones and holidays, and opt for a calendar on your computer rather than your wall.
It’s easy to forget that paper products include facial tissue and paper towels. After all, both are commonplace in virtually all Canadian households. To reduce your usage, simply switch to cloth napkins or reusable cleaning rags. Let’s face it, dumping disposable facial tissue in favour of hankies is really just a matter of overcoming the “ewww” factor. Reusing a handkerchief exposes you to no more germs than carrying around a used facial tissue. As a bonus, hankies are more comfortable, won’t rip (or create a mess in wash) and never run out. These small -changes also add up to big savings.
Cloth is making a comeback—especially when it comes to covering our most delicate areas. Many parents are ditching disposable diapers in favour of cloth when it comes to covering baby’s bottom. Thanks to new nappy technology, cloth diapers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials and colours. Cloth wipes and diaper services are also available. While nearly 4 million disposable diapers are discarded each day in Canada, 20 billion disposable pads, tampons and applicators are dumped into landfills annually in North America. For women wanting alternatives, reusable products, such as Lunapads, are currently on the market.
Canadians love their coffee. Research shows that about two-thirds of adults (65%) consumed coffee in the last day. And, on average, coffee drinkers guzzle three cups per day. While some of these disposable cups can be recycled (or composted), it’s important to remember that “Reduce” is the first “R.” So choose a reusable mug and eliminate the need for paper altogether. It keeps your coffee hot longer, and you’ll feel even better knowing your blue bin isn’t full to the brim each week.
A recent Canadian marketing study suggests that 67% of Canadians are not interested in flyers and advertising that come in the mail—25% of us discard them without reading.
North Americans still consume more paper per capita—upwards of 500 lbs. annually—than anyone els