Earth Week Daily Action: Go Paperless

Paper is the bane of the planet’s existence. Mine, too.

Paper is pretty cheap in the scheme of things, so most people don’t think twice about how they use it. But every aspect of producing paper takes a significant environmental toll:

* Forests may be clear cut for the pulp used to make paper fibers.

* Water is polluted when the fibers are bleached and washed.

* A variety of toxic chemicals, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide are emitted by paper plants, polluting the air.

* Burning energy to power paper processing operations creates more air and water pollution and contributes to climate change.

* Throwing away paper adds to the huge piles of waste and trash we’re already trying to contend with.

The numbers back up these statements. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, discarded paper accounts for about 35 percent by weight of municipal solid waste (before recycling).

Pulp and paper are the third largest industrial polluters of air, water and land both in Canada and the U.S., says Environment Canada. Over 6.5 million trees were cut down to make 16 billion paper cups used by U.S. consumers only for coffee in 2006, using 4 billion U.S. gallons of water and generating 253 million pounds of waste.

Paper in all its forms is the biggest source of trash and clutter in my home. Unwanted junk mail piles up. Paper wrapping when I get a package. Food and consumer goods packaging when I shop. Receipts. Even though I’ve sworn to live paper-free, it’s almost impossible to do.

Still, I have cut down my paper use significantly. One day during Earth Week, turn your attention to getting rid of as much new paper coming into your home as you can.

Here’s How

* Cancel newspaper and magazine subscriptions and read online: I reduced my overall paper consumption probably by 20 pounds a week—an entire recycling bin’s worth—when I started reading publications online. It saved me a lot of hassle, too, since dragging a recycling bin full of paper down to the street could be quite a chore. If you love reading the Sunday news on paper, make an exception for that one day’s delivery. Otherwise, go digital.

* Pay bills online: Most companies prefer to bill their customers digitally, since it saves them money and resources, too. Another advantage of online bill paying is that you can tie it directly to your checking account. You’ll see exactly how much money you have in your account before you pay each bill, which will reduce the likelihood that you’ll overdraw the account. Many businesses will offer a bonus—like increased airline miles, so some cash back transactions—when you make the switch.

* Get off junk mail lists: Drop by this earlier post I wrote about “best ways to stop junk mail and control catalog clutter.” It offers everything you need to know to stop the onslaught of unwanted paper from coming to your mail box.

* Refuse receipts: Do you really need a receipt when you buy your groceries or get a tube of toothpaste from the drug store? Probably not. I’ve stopped accepting receipts when I shop unless it’s for a durable good, clothing or some other item I might want to return. This has been a great way to reduce paper clutter not just in my home, but in my purse, as well. Some stores and many banks now let you elect to have an electronic receipt sent to your email address if you really need the record of what you’ve bought.

* Share documents electronically: Minimize what you need to share with others by filing and emailing digital documents rather than creating paper ones.

* Use mobile apps and email to record tickets, purchases, and appointments: There’s no need to print out a paper version of a ticket when you can pull it up on your phone.

* Use your own reusable carry out containers: Going to your favorite restaurant, or even the fast food joint up the street? Take your own reusable containers so you won’t need their wrapping and packing.

* Switch to a reusable grocery bag: You’ll have no need for throwaway, single-use bags when you use your own reusable cloth one.

* Take a reusable mug when you get coffee: You’ll avoid the throwaway paper cup, the lid and the cardboard sleeve that protects your hand from the hot cup.

Need More Suggestions? See These Related Posts on Care2:

4 Eco-Friendly Ways to Manage Your Money
11 Ways to Reduce Your Garbage

25 Ways to Reduce Food Waste


Sue H
Sue H12 months ago

And don't forget to recycle!

Hannah K
Past Member 12 months ago


Ruth S
Ruth Sabout a year ago


Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

Thank you for posting.

Danuta W
Danuta Wabout a year ago

thank you for posting

Carole R
Carole Rabout a year ago

The world does use a disgraceful amount of paper. It's sad.

Marija M
Marija Mabout a year ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago


Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin2 years ago

Everywhere I go the receipt prints whether you accept it or not so no paper is saved