Reducing Office Paper Consumption
We can all do our part to reduce waste and save resources and money in the office. A great place to start is with something that surrounds us every day: Paper. There are several methods to reducing an office’s paper consumption.
Use electrons, not trees
Double-sided copying and printing is a simple step to cut paper consumption right away and it is easy. The King County Executive made double-sided copying a standard county policy more than 10 years ago. Be sure to change the printing settings on your computer to double-sided. You can also check out the website How to Print Double Sided (external). If you need some help, ask your IT person or administrative staff. Here are double-sided ideas to consider:
More paper reduction ideas
Do not print emails
You know that person in your office who prints every email? Don’t be that person. An email was born electronically – let it live that way. Organize your emails by creating sub folders by topic or project.
Print multiple pages on a sheet
Under Print – Properties you can print one, two, four or more pages on a single sheet of paper. This can save a lot of paper when printing out a PowerPoint presentation, for example.
Do not print blank pages
As documents are created, extra paragraph marks can sneak down and create a new blank page. Check the document completely and hit "Delete" at the end of the document to make sure you are not going to a new page.
Check your formatting. The standard on your computer is 1 to 1 ½ inch margins, which you may not really need. You can keep the font at 12 point, and decrease your margins to maximize use of the paper.
Reduce the number of office publications
Limit the number of multiple subscriptions to the same publications. Develop a routing sheet and route the issues around the unit or office. Subscribe to electronic versions if available.
Reduce junk mail
If you get unwanted catalogs or advertising mail, contact the mailer and ask them to take you off their list. The EcoLogical Mail Coalition (external) will help reduce mail coming into your office for employees who no longer work there. More ideas are available on King County’s Reduce junk mail page.
Nix the fax
You don’t have to put up with unwanted faxes! A federal rule went into effect in 2005 that made it unlawful to send an unsolicited advertisement to a fax machine without prior written permission of the recipient. For more information, or to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, visit www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/unwantedfaxes.html (external).
Need a notepad? Put that old paper to good use. Ask the print shop to make notepads for you from your waste paper printed on one side.
Even more paper reduction ideas
Visit the waste prevention links page for more paper reduction ideas, resources and information.
Calculate your paper usage
Use an online paper calculator tool. The Environmental Defense Fund Paper Calculator (external) is a nifty little paper usage calculating tool.
Tracking paper usage and knowing if you reduced consumption
Without too much effort, one can see if paper reduction efforts have reduced consumption in two ways:
If you must consume it, use paper with the highest recycled content (at least 50%). King County has a Recycled Product Procurement Policy that gives guidance about the practices county agencies can follow. See interesting facts from Stanford University’s on-campus 5R Recycling Program about buying recycled paper (external).
Find a representative in your office to take suggestions, complaints and help find resources for office paper recycling. Add an item in your agency or company newsletter, or have a bulletin board with helpful suggestions. King County agencies can refer their staff to the King County WasteWise coordinators for suggestions.
Updated: May. 7, 2015