How to reduce your use of paper

In the age of technology, paper is still widely used in every aspect of our lives, from school to work to our recreational time in the form of magazines and books. 

But why should you reduce your use of paper?

For a start, roughly 406 million Metric Tonnes of paper are produced each year worldwide, for different purposes ranging from writing paper, paperboard for packaging and graphic paper for books and magazines.

406 million metric tonnes of paper are produced every year

Tens of thousands of trees are cut down every single day just to produce paper. But not only that, the paper production process is costly on the environment too. Each ton of newly produced paper uses an estimated 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 to 20.000 gallons of water.

Understanding the costs of paper production, let's look at some ways you can reduce your use of paper:

1. Go digital!

This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but a lot of people still use paper where technology could be such an easy switch! Using a Kindle or an e-reader would help save the production of hundreds of pounds of paper each year. Not only that, but e-books tend to be a lot cheaper (and often free in some places!) helping you save money too. Project Gutenberg has a directory of over 60.000 free e-books to choose from.

Instead of writing them down and wasting paper and pen, download a to-do list app instead! This way you can keep track of all your tasks from the comfort of your own phone. My personal favorite is the Todoist app, which also has a browser extension that allows you to sync your tasks from your phone to your desktop.

Instead of printing paper at work, send emails where possible, or even use a tablet if you have one at your disposal. Sometimes it's impossible to avoid the use of paper in the workplace, so try reusing paper as well. Jot down notes on the back of old (non-classified!) documents instead of throwing them in the bin or sending them to the shredder.

Also, consider switching to recycled paper instead. Recycled paper is a lot less energy-demanding to produce, and is way better for the environment.

2. Cut down on unnecessary paper items

As well as the options listed above, there are plenty of other ways to reduce your paper consumption.

Cancel that magazine subscription you've been meaning to ditch for a while or consider switching to their online subscriptions. The same applies to newspapers. Many newspapers post their articles for free online.

Instead of buying that book you want to read, check your local library first.

In the kitchen, you could try replacing paper hand towels and napkins with washable cloth ones. They soak up a lot more water in the event of a spill and are easy to wash and reuse.

You could always go retro and use a handkerchief to replace single-use tissue paper (that can't be recycled!).

Switch to online banking and stop receiving bank statements in the mail. The same applies to many utility bills. Many companies now have a paperless option or app.

In terms of hygiene, diapers and menstrual pads contain paper as well as paper packaging. A possible option is to switch to reusable cloth pads and diapers and menstrual cups. This will also save you hundreds of dollars a year in sanitary products.

Try not to use paper plates and cups. Use durable, washable ones if you need something for a BBQ or a day out. And if you're feeling adventurous you could also invest in some edible plates too.

The use of paper in many cases is inevitable. But making these small changes can dramatically reduce your paper consumption, and help save trees from being unnecessarily cut down.


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