Paper is a wonderful product.

It was first made thousands of years ago from papyrus by the ancient Egyptians and later, innovations were developed in ancient China.

Paper is used for a wide variety of purposes:

  • books

  • newspapers

  • magazines

  • arts & crafts

  • packaging

  • cleaning supplies

  • notebooks and journals

  • office and school documents

With about 90% of paper produced from trees and only about 50% of paper recycled globally, paper has a big impact on forests and our lives.

Why should I reduce my paper usage?

Reducing your reliance on and use of paper in all its forms can result in significant savings.

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Financial savings

  • Reduce the need to regularly resupply disposable items like paper plates, cups, paper towels, etc.

  • Reduce indirect costs of paper usage

  • Reduce costs associated with disposal

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Environmental savings

  • Preserve biodiversity in natural habitats

  • Reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions

  • Reduce waste going to landfills

You can save hundreds of dollars a year, or more, by reducing your paper use.

Where will you start?

How to do a paper audit?

A paper audit is the first and most important step in reducing paper consumption because it tells you where you can make the most impact.

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Identify the paper you use

  • At home: consider paper products in the kitchen, bathroom, office, and other places, including subscriptions to print media.

  • At school: consider syllabuses, textbooks and other reading materials, class assignments and notes, and research notes and photocopies.

  • At the office: consider printing drafts and final reports, flyers, meeting and project notes, and other documents shared with co-workers.

  • Other locations: consider receipts, food containers and packaging, and other paper from grocery stores, restaurants, travel, and more.

Reduce your paper usage at home

With your audit complete, now you know exactly where in your home you can reduce your paper usage with the greatest impact.

A table setting with a cloth napkin in a ring on a plate. Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

In the kitchen and eating areas

  • Choose cloth napkins that can be washed and reused

  • Use paperless "paper" towels for spills and clean up

  • Use silicone or metal straws

Around the house

  • Choose cloth, glass, metal, or other natural materials for storage and packaging

  • Switch to paperless billing, invoices, and receipts

  • Choose digital subscriptions instead of print subscriptions to magazines and newspapers

  • Reuse paper from school or work for crafts, scrap paper, or other projects

Reduce paper usage at work, school, or home office

Printer paper is perhaps the most commonly used paper at work. Adopt these strategies to reduce its impact.

Flaticon Icon Adopt a digital-first strategy

Working completely in the digital world can save thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of pages, and millions of acres of forests.

Options for a digital-first strategy:

  • Don't print emails or other documents

  • Store and share documents using the cloud

  • Make PDF documents searchable and with links for easy navigation (paper can't do this)

  • Choose e-books instead of physical textbooks or other reading material

  • Use digital whiteboards for collaboration

  • Use collaboration features available with common software applications

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  • Print double-sided (tip: make this your default printer setting)

  • Reduce margin sizes and font size

  • Print multiple pages to a sheet of paper

  • Keep language clear and concise

  • Use a high percentage of recycled content and source paper from sustainably-grown forests

  • Extend the life of paper by turning blank/used pages into scrap and note paper

What would Madeline do?

Madeline wants to reduce the amount of paper she uses.

She looks at her daily routines at home and work and decides she has a few opportunities to easily reduce her paper usage.

Person sitting at breakfast table have tea and cereal, reading a magazine. Photo by THE 5TH on Unsplash

What would be good choices for her to make?

A. She prints a lot of documents for school and work, so she decides to change her printer settings to double-sided printing.

B. She has a stack of paper towel rolls in her kitchen pantry. As she's wiping up a small spill on the counter, she realizes that a paperless paper towel would make more sense on the small spill. So she decides to purchase paperless paper towels.

C. She takes a lot of notes in her classes and in her work meetings. She has notebooks filled with writing that is sometimes difficult to sort through and stacks of past notebooks she doesn't know what to do with. She decides she'll start taking notes on her laptop.

D. She likes to grab a cup of coffee in the morning and during her breaks in the afternoon. She decides that instead of using the paper cups that are sometimes double-stacked, she'll bring a reusable plastic travel mug.


What would be good choices for Madeline to make? Select all that apply:

Take Action

Start with your paper audit, then consider these additional resources and steps to take control of your paper use and impact.

A sign in a forest that reads, Photo by on Unsplash


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