7 Steps to (Almost) Never Using Paper Again
There are more people every day, and the rate at which our numbers increase will only mean fewer trees to go around. Paper consumption is something all of us live with every day, from our work tools to our food products, but we can greatly reduce the amount of paper we use with technology. This is not just an environmental issue. Reducing paper usage saves individuals and businesses money, and there are certainly better ways to organize information than the old rusty file cabinet. To get started, try one, a few, or even all of these changes in your life.
1. Electronic documents – notes, letters, and forms
Many college students already carry around their laptops and notebooks. The professor that banned their use in his class almost sparked an insurrection. You can write business and education documents on a computer and send them anywhere. Why are people still using fax machines and snail mail? Someone who changes physical addresses five times may very well keep the same email address. Need to conduct a survey? Use a single web page rather than hundreds of paper ones.
2. Electronic Communication – Email, Social Networking, Texting, etc.
Email has been around for at least two decades, and yet some people still insist on writing on paper. While that might have some romantic value when writing a love letter, there is no reason for business memos to still show up in landfills.
3. Cloud services – Have access to everything from any computer or device, anytime.
If you are going to store everything on computers, make sure you have multiple backups, both in your possession and in secure, encrypted online storage. You might also want to use cloud document managers and productivity suites so that you can access them anywhere.
4. Online Bill Pay
Nearly all utilities and service providers have some form of ebill system, but even for those that do not, your bank most likely offers a bill pay system where they will send it for you. Unfortunately, this will probably not help the environment if the bank still sends a paper check, but at least you will not have to bother with paper.
5. Electronic Tax Submission
Taxes are far too complex to do by hand anyway, especially when software will walk you through all of it and probably save you money. Send your taxes online and get your refund directly deposited into your bank account.
6. Ebooks – Even for me, this will probably be the bitterest pill to swallow. Compared to the touch, smell, and sound of real pages turning, ebooks fail to even come close. There is something about holding a real book, but the use of paper to manufacture them cannot continue forever. You can at least reduce your consumption of paper by getting novels at the library and accessing reference materials online. Eventually, ebooks may learn to mimic the tactile sensation of real pages, but for now, at least give it a try.
7. Online news, magazines, guides, and more – Newspapers are no longer necessary other than to line the bottoms of bird cages. The Internet provides the perfect platform for periodicals, including magazines, club newsletters, and anything else that normally eats up tons of trees. But that should not be the end of it. Travel guides, television schedules, coupon books, and any of those other disposable items you get in your mailbox can now more easily be distributed online, even providing customization features paper never could.
The tree to people ratio in 2005 was about 61 to 1. Most businesses now have policies for reducing paper consumption, but for those addicted to post-it notes and paper coffee cups, they may have already used up their share of 61 trees many years ago. Unless each person is outside planting new trees regularly, this pattern cannot continue. With a little effort, our technological advancements can helps us almost completely eliminate the need for paper.
Tavis J. Hampton is a writer for clustered hosting company 34SP.com. He has a decade of experience in information technology, web hosting, and Linux system administration. His freelance services include writing, editing, tech training, and information architecture.