The production of paper uses trees, chemicals, energy (greenhouse gases) and water. About one-third of the garbage we throw away is paper. Let's avoid, reduce, re-use and recycle at work too!
The ecological footprint of a single newspaper was once described as taking up the area covered by all the sheets of the newspaper laid side by side, for the period of a year.
A tonne of paper consumes approximately 20 full-grown trees, over 90,000 litres of water, over 1.2 tonnes of coal and an assortment of chemicals. The greenhouse gas emissions of this tonne of paper are approximately 8 tonnes (with a tonne of recycled paper emitting approximately 2 tonnes of greenhouse gases), according to the Federal Government's 2001 Green Office Guide (PDF).
Every year, every Australian office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of A4 paper, with approximately 50 per cent of this going straight to landfill. The following ideas will enable you to more than halve this figure, saving paper, forests and money.
How to do it now!
The 21st century mantra 'Reduce, Re-use, Recycle' is especially applicable to your daily office work with paper. These steps, when combined with your company purchasing recycled paper and supporting the recycling of office paper, can result in your office cutting its paper use by more than half.
Reduce the amount you print
The most effective way to save paper is to use less. We need to work electronically and manage our printing to use the least amount possible. Here are some work practices that use less paper while also improving your productivity.
Work on, save, publish & distribute documents in electronic format. Define clear (and tight) criteria for when you print. By limiting the times you can print you will have to develop your electronic work habits (editing on screen, online collaboration, taking meeting notes on laptop, etc).
Check it before you print it. Train yourself to sanity-check the document. Use the Spell Check and Print Preview functions of your word processing software before you print.
Edit and make comments on the soft copy - Revise draft documents using the Edit and Comment features of your word-processing software rather than a hard copy (which you then need to re-enter into the soft copy).
Ensure all prints are double sided. This reduces paper use by 50%per cent in one press of a button.
Distribute a single hard copy. Establish a routing procedure whereby the single copy is passed to several people for review.
Inevitably, paper will be used and will not be required any longer.
Re-use scrap paper. Collect all scrap paper that is printed on only one side. Place in a reusable paper tray near printers for reuse. (Be aware not to reuse confidential documents! These should be shredded.).
Re-use paper to print non-presentation documents. Many print jobs can be done on the blank side of a used piece of A4.
Re-use paper for notepads. All those pieces of paper printed on one side that you no longer need make great notepads.
Finally, when the sheet has been used on both sides, used as a doodle pad and made into a paper aeroplane, it's off to the recycler. Keep a box under your desk for recycled paper - and use it.
Establish a recycling program at work
If your office doesn't have a paper recycling program in place it's time for you to get active.
Talk to your manager (or the office manager, or the owner, or whoever can make it happen) about implementing a recycling program at your work.
Do some research on establishing a successful paper recycling program. There are several (generally state government) sites that offer assistance, guides and support for establishing a paper recycling program. Even if there isn't a program in your state, you can read up on the other state programs, as they are proven winners.
Recycle Near You (NSW) [PDF] - Provides a great PDF guide to running a paper recycling program.
Zero Waste (SA) - Offers a directory of recycling services in SA.
Organisations that collect your office paper for recycling (and provide recycle bins etc.).
Check if your local council waste collection service includes your office paper!
Try the Planet Arc 'Recycling Near You' site, which has a great directory of recycling services around Australia.
Try some of these paper recycling companies direct:
Environmental purchasing (Australian Government)
Why is this action important?
Paper is a crushed wood product made with the addition of energy, chemicals and water. In addition, many of the chemicals used in the creation of paper have detrimental effects on the environment and us. Reducing our use of wood will allow our forests to serve a more important role - collecting and storing carbon from the atmosphere and ameliorating the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the resulting climate change - not to mention the role of our forests in providing habitat and allowing biodiversity to thrive!
Why Do This Action?
Fights climate change
Reduce water use
Taking simple steps to re-use, reduce and recycle your paper can have a serious impact on resource use over the span of our working lives. This action will reduce your contribution to greenhouse gas accumulations in the atmosphere and the resulting climate change, as well as reducing the amount of toxins (dioxins) released into the environment from paper mills.
Aligning our behaviour with our beliefs reduces stress and anxiety. Reducing our use of perishable resources, such as paper, will ease the burden on our forests and natural systems, slow the onset of climate change and result in fewer chemical toxins being released into our environment. Saving paper will make you happier, wealthier and healthier.