It’s not just trees: Paper production and waste are rampant and effect resources and the ecosystem more than most of us realize. Luckily, we can all do our part to reduce paper waste.
Paper is impossible to eliminate from homes and businesses, schools and beyond. But we can be smarter and use less. Why is paper a problem and how can we use less? Let’s get into that this week.
The Problem With Paper
The World Counts, a great site for eco-friendly folks looking to live more green, shared some scary facts about paper. Here’s a look at just some of them.
Water Waste During Paper Production
Paper is made from pulp, which is a wet mix of material. That means paper wastes significant water.
- It takes 85.6 gallons of water to make 2.2 pounds of paper.
- A single piece of 11.69 x 16.53 (inches) paper, or A4 size, requires 2.6 gallons of water.
Effect on Trees
It’s important to understand that one tree produces oxygen for three humans.
- 93% of paper comes from trees.
- One Sunday edition of the New York Times requires 75,000 trees. That’s enough oxygen for 25,000 people.
- Recycling is great, but recycling one ton of paper only saves 17 trees.
Adding to Landfills
Much of the paper produced in the United States ends up as waste.
- 50% of business waste is paper. Businesses use 12.1 trillion sheets of paper per year.
- Despite recycling efforts, 25% of landfill waste is paper.
- If paper waste was collected for one year, a twelve foot high wall could be built spanning from New York to California.
How to Reduce Paper Waste
Adorable notebooks that don’t get filled in, printing emails, junk mail. Paper waste is easy to spot. And despite the predictions that our current demand for paper is estimated to double in the next 13 years. Here are some ways to reduce paper waste.
Think about packaging. Paper based packaging makes up at least 1/3 of the average American’s trash. One place where you can reduce this is at the grocery store. Healthy food often comes naked. Produce is a fine example. When shopping consider buying fresh, unpackaged produce and other items with limited packaging. Cereal and other dry goods that comes in bulk easily fit into reusable containers reducing cardboard and bags. You can’t get everything this way, but selecting items that come with zero packaging isn’t just better for the environment, it’s better for you and your family, too. Keep using your reusable shopping bag, too!
Ditch the fancy list. You don’t need a pad with pre-printed fancy shopping lists. In our household mail, envelopes, old receipts and even old greeting cards do the trick and I often reuse them. Many people immediately picture a mess when they hear this, but I promise you: no mess here. Simply designate a place in your kitchen, office or another space for paper that can be reused and keep it neatly with a paper clip. There are also several apps for grocery lists. Personally, I like things to be efficient and I often find the apps require too much scrolling and searching. When I do use my phone for grocery lists I use the “notes” app that comes with it. Apply this to other lists, too.
Rethink gifts. I love a beautifully wrapped gift, whether it’s a gorgeous bag or box. But it’s nothing but pure paper waste. Skip the wrapping, stuffing and everything else and simply give a gift. If you want to retain an element of surprise consider a burlap sack or other reusable bag.
Around The House
Junk mail — don’t just junk it. I used to come home every day, grab the mail and then stand over the garbage ripping it in half and tossing it into the garbage. There are so many things wrong with that, I’m almost embarassed to post it. But I’ve come a long way. Rather than do this, even over the recycle bin, start a new practice. Now I sort between junk and stuff that reads to be read. With the junk mail I open it up. Anything two sided goes into the recycle bin. Anything only printed on one side or half a page goes into the drawer in the kitchen where we keep our stamps, pens and coupons. I keep this excess paper clipped and it’s my go to for lists of all varieties.
Foster 100% use. There are two types of people in the world. People who start using a notebook on the first line of the first page, and people who randomly open to a page and write. I have never understood the second type, although I live with one of them. I know this because I will sometimes get to a page in my current notebook and find random notes scribbled. While there is nothing wrong with using notebooks around the house for to do lists, notes or as journals and message pads, getting into the habit of only using one and using it well. You entire pages rather than writing one thing and starting a new page. And start at the first page and work your way through the back.
Another good idea with notebooks is to try and limit how many you have going. A colleague of mine likes to keep a bullet journal for work and one for the rest of her life. Rather than have two books, she uses the front for one and then turns the book upside down and starts from the back for her other. This maximizes the notebook’s use and minimizes the potential for waste.
This week, take a day and save any mail that can be used for lists. Use the paper until it runs out. You’ll be sold so quickly you’ll find yourself checking the mail every day for paper you can reuse.