Incorporating environmentally-friendly practices into office operations is an effective means of contributing to sustainability, cutting overhead expenses, and strengthening public relations. One of the most significant methods of going green at any professional services business is to strive toward the “paperless office.”
While it isn’t feasible to eliminate all paper use, there are many ways to reduce paper waste in the office and tangibly benefit the environment and your bottom line. There’s certainly a lot of room for improvement. According to the International Institute for Environment and Development, businesses still keep 95 percent of their information on paper. Over 40 percent of the US’s solid waste is paper. Widely-cited statistics put the average American office worker’s paper waste output at 375 pounds per year, while those in financial sectors produce an average of 500 pounds annually.
The Daily Green points out that paper production is the fourth-leading source of greenhouse gas emissions among domestic manufacturers. They estimate that if US offices cut paper use by only 10 percent, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.6 million tons per year. In addition, GreenAndSave.com has found that basic efforts to reduce paper waste in the office save at least $125 annually per employee.
Here are a few ways to become more eco-friendly and cut operational costs by working toward a paperless office. They are easy to implement; the only obstacle is resolving to make the effort.
Substitute technology for paper whenever possible. Email, online fax services, and website message boards are convenient alternatives to printed communication. Forms and reports can be circulated and stored as PDF files.
When hard copies are necessary, forgo individual printouts, and let as few as possible be shared. Memos can be posted to a bulletin board, rather than sent to everyone. Don’t forget to proof read before printing. If a traditional fax must be sent, skip the cover sheet.
Office paper consumption for internal use only can be cut almost in half just by printing and copying on both sides of a sheet of paper. Set your printers and copy machines to use two sides by default. Pages printed on one side can be saved for scrap paper.
According to the Public Recycling Officials of Pennsylvania, about 50 percent of office paper waste is of a high grade, heavy stock. Use lightweight paper when quality copies aren’t needed. It’s cheaper and slightly more efficient to produce and to recycle.
Stop incoming junk mail. On average, Americans receive 41 pounds of unsolicited mail annually, much of which is sent to businesses. Get delisted from address databases like Dun & Bradstreet and InfoUSA, and request that companies sending junk mail remove your business from their mailing lists. There are also services such as the EcoLogical Mail Coalition that get former employees deleted from outdated mailing lists at no charge.
While reducing paper consumption, don’t overlook other paper products like disposable cups and plates and paper towels. Provide employees with mugs, glasses, dishes, and cloth rags and hand towels.
Simple steps like these make a big difference, environmentally and cost-wise, over time. Remember that any paper office supplies are now available made from recycled materials, and are priced comparably to their less environmentally-friendly alternatives. Of course, also make sure all your office’s paper waste is being recycled too.