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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.

Prevention

Use electrons, not trees


  • Request documents electronically. Limit the number of hard copies to the minimum required by your office.
  • Scan and e-mail instead of print and copy. This is a great way to distribute multiple copies of a document. The recipient can choose whether to print the document.
  • Think about those paper copies of an office notice or memo. Ask whether it can be sent by email next time. Keeping documents in your electronic files instead of your file cabinet, and print copies as little as possible.
  • Let people know you prefer documents by email rather than fax or hard copy.
  • When sending out official documents or letters, consider sending the "cc's" by email.

Reduction

Think double-sided

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:

  • Give instructions in requests for proposals (RFPs) and other bid documents for responses to be submitted electronically and require double-sided printing. Send out RFPs via email and through your employer's website.
  • Make a double-sided request. If someone gives you a report or document that is printed single-sided, ask if they can have it done double-sided next time.
  • Be the voice of double-sided reason. Encourage others to print double-sided. Help staff learn how to double-side copy on the copier, or see if it can be an agreed default. Encourage your IT staff to help get everyone setup for default duplex printing.

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.

Formatting

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).

Make notepads

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.

Strategies and programs

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:

  1. A reduction in the amount of paper recycled. It may sound backward but it makes sense. The more you reuse paper or decrease the need for it the less that will end up in the recycling bin. Do a recycling audit before starting a paper prevention campaign and monitor changes several months afterwards.
  2. How often your office has to order paper. The easiest way to track using this method is if one person does all the paper ordering for the office, section or division. If this is not the case, accounts payable personnel may have the information. Imagine that your office orders 60 reams of paper every two months. If you start an aggressive paper reduction plan, your section might only need to order 50 reams every two months or 60 every three months. One can average that out over a year or per employee.

Buy recycled

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).

Office advocate

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.

Related Information

  • King County's WasteWise program – promotes internal waste prevention, recycling collection and purchasing of recycled products
  • King County's Environmental Purchasing Program – provides county personnel with information and technical assistance to help them identify, evaluate, and purchase economical and effective environmentally preferable products and services.
  • Visit the waste prevention links page for more paper reduction ideas, resources and information.

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Updated: May. 7, 2015


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