How to Save Paper

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Trees are an essential part of the planet’s ecosystem, they provide oxygen, clean the air, provide shade and food, and they're used as homes by many different creatures. To create paper and other wood products, millions of new trees must be planted each year. Even so, logging can be very destructive to the environment if it pollutes nearby water, leads to soil erosion, contributes to habitat loss, and uses a great deal of energy. To help reduce logging, there are many things you can do at home, school, and work to cut down on paper consumption.


[Edit]Finding Paper Substitutes

  1. Use reusable cloths instead of paper products. Around the house, a lot of paper is wasted every year on things like paper towels and napkins. And if you're using lots of paper products for cleaning, drying, and wiping your nose, you can save plenty of trees by switching to reusable versions.[1]
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    • To replace paper towels in the kitchen and bathroom, use tea towels to dry dishes, old rags to clean, and sponges to wipe up spills.
    • To replace facial tissues, invest in a few handkerchiefs that can be washed and reused.
    • To replace napkins at the dinner table, purchase cloth napkins instead, which can be washed and reused as well.
  2. Use real dinnerware instead of paper. Paper plates and dishes may be convenient, but they aren't good for the environment. Most paper plates just end up in the trash, meaning the paper isn't even recycled properly. When you have a party or any time the paper plates come out, ask to use the real dinnerware instead.
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    • If your family likes to go on picnics or camping trips, invest in reusable plastic dinnerware. You can get plates, bowls, cups, and utensils that are durable, unbreakable, reusable, and not made from paper.
  3. Use paper from other plant sources. There are times when it’s simply not possible to avoid paper-like products. Luckily, there are tree-free paper products available that are made from alternative plant sources, and many of these have a lower impact on the environment.
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    • Hemp is a versatile plant that grows much faster than a tree and produces more fiber. Hemp can be turned into fabric, writing paper, greeting cards, envelopes, and other paper products.
    • Bamboo is another fast-growing species of plant that can be used for alternative paper products. You can find bamboo bathroom tissue, paper, towels, and even disposable dinnerware.
  4. Bring your own thermos or reusable mug to cafes. Disposable paper cups from cafes and restaurants are another way that lots of paper is wasted every year. Like paper plates, many paper cups end up in the trash because they are not recyclable (they are usually coated with plastic; in the case of uncoated paper cups, they are soiled with liquid).
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    • Any time you go to a restaurant or cafe for a takeout drink, take a reusable coffee mug or thermos with you for coffee, hot chocolate, or other warm beverages.
  5. Use reusable grocery and lunch bags. Many grocery stores provide paper bags to pack groceries. You can help your family save paper by investing in reusable grocery bags. Similarly, if your lunches are normally packed in paper bags, ask about switching to a reusable lunch bag instead.
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    • If your family is hesitant about switching, ask them to consider how much money they spend on paper bags and grocery bags every year. Then, compare that to the one-time cost of reusable bags.
  6. Send e-cards. Lots of people like to send greeting cards for birthdays, holidays, and other events, and this leads to plenty of paper waste. Not only is the card itself paper, but it’s also sent in a paper envelope. Instead of sending paper greeting cards to all your friends and family in the mail, send electronic greeting cards for future celebrations.
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    • There are lots of e-card services out there that allow you to personalize designs, messages, and graphics to suit your taste and the type of celebration.
    • E-cards are also great for sending out invitations to parties, weddings, and other events.
  7. Read e-books or library books. Books are great resources for school and work projects, and they're great to read as a leisure activity. But printed books are still made with paper, so you can save paper by using public versions of books that are available at the library, or by reading electronic copies instead.
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    • Buying used books is also a good idea, because you're reusing something that’s already been printed.
  8. Use computers instead of notebooks for school and work. School and work notebooks are a great way to keep track of things you're supposed to learn and projects you're working on, but you can save paper by keeping electronic notes instead. That way, you don’t have to rely on paper notebooks, and you can always have your notes saved to your computer.
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    • If you're in school, ask your teacher if it’s OK that you take notes on a computer or laptop instead of in a notebook.

[Edit]Cutting Down on Paper Products

  1. Don’t use products that come with excessive packaging. One of the biggest culprits for creating paper waste is consumer packaging that’s used to wrap and label food, toys, clothes, and other goods. To help save paper, buy products that have been made with minimal or no packaging.
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    • Many of today’s consumer items are wrapped multiple times, such as a candy that comes in an individual wrapper, within a bag that’s also placed inside a box. Instead, look for packaging that has a sticker instead of a full box, for instance, or a tag instead of an entire container. Similarly, buy items that haven't been wrapped multiple times.
    • Buying in bulk is a good way to reduce paper waste from packaging. Next time you or your family go shopping, make sure you take reusable bags and buy what you can in bulk.
  2. Dine in instead of using takeout containers at restaurants. Another large contributor to paper waste is takeout food containers, which are often made of paper products or packed in paper bags. Next time you and your family decide to eat out for a meal, request that you sit down in the restaurant instead of taking the food in to-go containers.
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    • Most fast food restaurants use paper products to individually wrap all food, so ask your family if you can eat at a conventional sit-down restaurant for your next night out.
  3. Be selective about what you print. At home, at school, and work, you can save paper by cutting down on the amount of material you print off. Before you print anything, ask yourself if you really need a paper copy, and only print something if you must.
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    • When you do need to print something off, reduce the font, increase the margins, and print on both sides of the paper so the project can be printed on fewer pieces of paper.[2]
    • If teachers and employers require that you hand in paper copies of projects and assignments, ask if you can instead submit them electronically.
    • Before you print off an assignment, letter, or personal project, proofread it on the computer so you don’t have to print off a second draft.
  4. Send, receive, and store electronic records instead of paper copies. Most documents these days can be shared and stored electronically, meaning you don’t have to print off paper copies for your records. For instance, if you need a copy of an electronic document, request that it be sent to you by email.
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    • For sensitive documents that shouldn’t be emailed, ask if you can save a copy directly to a flash drive.
    • In the case where an original paper copy already exists and you need a record for your files, scan a version to your computer instead of making a photocopy.[3]
    • When you need to provide copies of documents to friends, family, teachers, or people at work, ask if you can transmit files electronically using sharing services, email, or other electronic methods.
  5. Opt for paperless communications. Many companies and organizations offer electronic correspondences that can replace paper copies they traditionally send in the mail.[4] Whenever possible, sign up for paperless communications for items like:
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    • Bills
    • Newsletters
    • Monthly mailings
    • Flyers and coupons
    • Newspaper and magazine subscriptions
  6. Use electronic calendars and day timers. There are plenty of free calendars and schedulers available online that you can use to plan your days, keep track of dates and assignments, and schedule meetings and interviews. By using an electronic calendar, you can save the paper that would have been used on a calendar, organizer, journal, or other type of scheduler.
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    • Both Google and Apple provide free calendar products.
    • There are also plenty of calendar apps that you can use on smartphones or tablets.
  7. Encourage others to save paper. To have an even bigger impact, you can also encourage friends, family, classmates, and coworkers to save paper as well. One of the best ways to reach the most people is to put up signs around the house, school, or office that inform people how they can help.
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    • There are lots of signs that you can print off from the internet that will help raise awareness about the importance of saving trees. The WWF has signs you can download and print.
    • Make sure you print or draw your signs on reused paper (like the back of an old assignment).
    • Trash containers and recycling bins are a great place for signs.

[Edit]Recycling and Reusing Paper

  1. Buy recycled paper products. There are paper products available that are made with recycled paper, which means that no new trees were cut down to make those products. When you do need to buy paper products, look for things that were made with “post-consumer waste,” including:
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    • Bathroom tissues
    • Printing paper
    • Greeting cards
    • Paper bags
  2. Use both sides of a piece of paper. When you do have to print or write things down on paper, make sure you get the most out of that paper by writing on both sides. If you currently only use one side of each piece, you can cut down on paper use by half just by using the other side too![5]
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    • If you only end up using one side of a piece of paper, you could consider using the back for mathematical calculations or sketches.
    • Writing or printing in a smaller size or font will also help you cut down on the amount of paper you need for notes and projects.
    • When writing in notebooks, always fill the pages without skipping lines (unless instructed to do so), and don’t start a fresh book until you’ve filled all the pages.
  3. Reuse gift bags, wrapping paper, newspaper, and tissue. Everybody loves a well-wrapped gift, but that doesn’t mean you have to use brand new wrapping paper for every gift you give. Instead, when you get a gift, keep the bag or wrapping paper it came in so that you can use it again for another gift.
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    • Newspaper can also be repurposed as an eco-friendly wrapping paper or tissue paper to stuff a gift bag.[6]
  4. Turn old paper products into crafts. There are plenty of crafts that require paper, so instead of using fresh sheets, why not reuse old paper that was already bound for the recycler. You can use old newspapers, notes, cards, and other paper to make things like:[7]
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  5. Recycle paper you can't reuse. When you do have paper that you can't reuse or repurpose, make sure you recycle it instead of throwing it in the trash. Paper that goes in the garbage just ends up in a landfill. But paper that goes into the recycling bin can be sent to a special facility and turned into something new.
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  • Write on paper in pencil instead of pen. This way, you can erase what you write if you need to, instead of having to get a new piece of paper.

[Edit]Expert Advice

  • Boost your impact by reducing paper usage. Recycling is great but the paper you recycle still had to be processed, which causes emissions. Reducing your paper consumption is much more effective for going green. Try to cut down on paper usage as much as you can to have an even larger, more positive environmental impact!
  • Choose reusable products over disposable paper ones. Disposing of waste, even if it is recycled, can have high energy costs. For example, instead of asking for paper bags instead of plastic bags at the grocery store, bring your own reusable cloth bags.
  • Use paper products as efficiently as possible. If you must use paper, make sure as little of it is going to waste as you can. This might mean printing double-sided or using crumpled-up sheets of used paper as a packing material. Plus, you should make sure that all of your paper products are made of 100% recycled materials.

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