Paper cuts

Was the ‘paperless office’ a joke? Time to break the paper habit.

Prognisticators predicted paperless offices. They were really, really wrong.

Prognisticators predicted paperless offices. They were really, really wrong.

Photo By David Robert

What happened to the computer era? Wasn’t there supposed to be a “paperless office” with the dawning of all that new technology? We’re using more paper now than ever, and it’s time to sort it out.

The pulp and paper industry ranks first in use of water and third in toxic chemical releases. The manufacturing process includes polymers, microbicides, chlorine bleach, acids, dyes, brightening agents, synthetic strength additives, resins and “de-tackifyers.” Yuck.

More than 40 percent of timber harvested in the United States is used to make paper products, according to a new report by the Environmental Paper Network. Rarely are those trees harvested in a sustainable way. Some members of the paper industry cut down old-growth forests and clear-cut. Environmental Technology reports that paper manufacturing is also the third largest user of fossil fuel in the world. After all that, 58 percent of printing, writing, and copy paper still ends up in the waste stream, according to the nonprofit Green Seal.

Don’t think you’re contributing to the problem? Unless you’re a caveman in the Paleolithic Era, you probably are.

To cut back, ask yourself if you need to print or copy a document in the first place. Do you really need a hardcopy of that email from your roommate? Do you need to save that flyer or article for all eternity? Do you have to print every draft of your term paper?

Choose recycled paper over paper made from virgin fibers. They’re side-by-side in the store, why not reach for the recycled stuff? It’s almost the same price, and there’s virtually no difference in performance.

Recycling paper uses 60 percent less energy than making paper from virgin fiber. Look for 100 percent or the highest post-consumer content you can find. Insist that your office switch to recycled and make sure you use it at home.

If you must print, there are some things you can do to minimize your paper consumption:

• Print on both sides of the page. It’s pretty rare that a document is so special you can’t print on both sides.

• Click PRINT and look around for “two-sided printing” or “duplex printing.” Your printer will spit out the even pages, you’ll flip them over and hit resume, and then the odd-numbered pages will print on the reverse side. Same with the copier. Choose two-sided copies and, for less fancy copiers, reinsert the pages after the first side has been done. If you can’t find the duplex option or two-sided printing, print the odd pages first, remove, flip, re-insert. Then print the even pages.

• Reuse one-sided copies. Keep a stack near your desk or in your printer, and use those pages for less important print jobs.

• Only print the parts of a long document that you need to read or write comments on paper.

• Stop printing Power Point presentations. You hate them yourself, so why print them out?

• Create a pdf file, and send it to your audience instead of a hardcopy.

• Reduce margins and font size to decrease the number of pages.

• Cut and paste information into a document you store on your computer.

• Email your co-workers or post one general notice instead of giving everybody a hardcopy.