8 Ways to Green Your Paper Use

We may talk of a paperless world, but paper still makes up 35 percent of our solid waste. Even though new paper can be created by growing more trees, that doesn’t mean we can’t be smart about the paper we use. Here’s eight ways to optimize your paper use for the environment’s sake:

1. Save Those Boxes

Many of your larger purchases will come in a cardboard box that you can’t wait to get rid of. While you may not have a need for the plastic packaging (you can find a location to recycle plastic using Earth911), the box can definitely come in handy for:

  • Wrapping gifts
  • Shipping packages
  • Moving

The beauty of cardboard is that it can be collapsed into a flat sheet for easy storage under a bed or in the back of a closet. All you need to create a “new” box is some tape.

2. Recycle Your Mail

No matter how many mailing lists you unsubscribe from, you’re still going to have paper to dispose of after reading your mail. Almost all of it can be recycled as mixed paper, so why not set up a bin for your letters, catalogs and multi-color advertisements?

Two mail-related products you may wonder about are envelopes with plastic windows and stapled paper. Both are most likely accepted in your area, because when paper is recycled these elements are filtered out. Find out where to recycle mixed paper in your area using Earth911.

3. Pay Bills Online

You can reduce the amount of mail you need to recycle in the first place by signing up to receive statements via email. You’ll decrease paper use, save money on stamps and have easy access to your information online. Plus, payments posted online send you an email confirmation so you can feel confident about avoiding late fees.

4. Print Double-Sided

Computer paper has two sides; how many are you printing on? If you have a laser printer at home, you can change the setting to double-sided printing and copying. Otherwise, consider printing documents one page at a time and printing the second page on the back of the first. It may take you more time, but you’ll also have less paper to buy.

5. Buy Recycled

Paper recycling is only beneficial if a market is generated for recycled content. Guess what: you generate that market by buying recycled content paper. In the case of newspaper, you’re buying recycled without even knowing it. For computer paper, the higher the recycled content, the better for the environment (100 percent recycled is available at most office supply stores). Ask about recycled content paper at you’re local copy store as well.

6. Get a Library Card

If buying recycled content paper is green, renting paper is neon green. The library may seem out of date with internet access and national book chains, but it’s a great way to reuse paper. You can also find newspapers and magazines at the library, and sometimes even textbooks. If you decide to get rid of books, find book reuse and recycling locations using Earth911.

7. Make Paper Bag Book Covers

With more cities placing restrictions on the use of plastic bags, paper bags may be your packaging of choice. Well, these bags have many reuse options to keep them out of the trash, including covering your hardcover books. This also protects your books from damage and food stains. Plus, once you’re done with the cover you can still recycle the bag with the rest of your paper.

8. Recycle Phone Books

How many phone books do you have stacked in a pantry, closet or garage? You can use Earth911 to find a location that will recycle telephone directories into new white and yellow pages, as well as insulation material and the aforementioned grocery bags.