Paper footprint


Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to save paper. In some ways, we’re using more paper — I’ve been tending toward choosing a product packaged in paper over one packaged in plastic, simply because it at least can go in the recycling bin.


But in other ways, I’m trying to cut down. I work at home, so I can control how much paper my office uses, and I’m striving to use less and less:

  • I print on the backs of unneeded pages I’ve printed or that I receive from elsewhere (letters in the mail, notices from Little Cheap’s school) rather than using a fresh piece of paper.
  • I purchase the highest percentage recycled printer paper I can find, and of course, choose a brand wrapped in paper.
  • If, in the past, I would have printed something, I don’t. For instance, if I make an online purchase (from an actual object to re-upping my computer virus protection subscription), where it says “Print a receipt,” I don’t. Sometimes I cut and paste into a Word document and save that. Sometimes I simply e-mail myself the confirmation code, so I can access the page on the vendor’s Web site in case I need to confirm it later. Always, I’m trying to think twice.
  • I file e-mails in online folders rather than printing them — realizing that very seldom do I need to view something in hard copy.
  • I snag a paper from the recycling bin whenever I think of it to write a note or a shopping or to do list, rather than using a piece of virgin paper.
  • I re-use the envelopes I receive with credit-card solicitations for hand-delivered, sealed items. The business manager at my daughter’s school probably thinks I think her name is “Capital One” because she gets those re-used envelopes with our check inside.
  • I stole recycled a colleague’s message at the end of his e-mails: “Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.” His note reminds people to think before printing. (It even uses a neat little widget of a tree with a swirl to look all environmental.)


I understand that saving things on my computer requires energy, but the printing process itself takes resources. In addition to paper, there’s the matter of toner cartridges and power for my little laser printer. (My printer is an Energy Star model that uses 180 watts printing, but plenty of laser printers require 450 watts and more to print that e-purchase receipt.)

What am I missing? How do you view the pursuit of paper-saving?


4 thoughts on “Paper footprint

  1. L'an says:

    I’m torn about printing vs. reading things online. We always have a lot of spare paper (old manuscripts) around our office, so the only time I print on “virgin” paper is when I’m sending a letter on letterhead, or printing the official internal documents related to a contract. But I find it very difficult to read and edit things on-line. I know it’s possible, and for short things (two paragraphs of promo copy), I’ve found that Word’s “track changes” function is fabulous. But overall, I can’t help feeling that I don’t absorb as much meaning when I read online–and there are plenty of grammatical errors my eye just slides over on the screen in a way it doesn’t on a hard copy.

    Have you found that, and/or do you have any suggestions for making the reading of things on-line easier?

  2. cheaplikeme says:

    I know what you mean about editing. I am so accustomed to editing online, it’s not much of a problem. I sometimes do have to print when it’s very complicated. My “secret” with online editing is to review a document using “track changes” where my changes show … then review it again with changes hidden. I almost always catch more errors on the second pass-through. Of course, that might be the case in hard-copy read as well.

  3. rebecca77 says:

    I understand totally about this paper usage thing – I started a small business about a year ago and we have been working pretty hard to reduce the amount of paper we use for sending samples and I have been trying to send information online as much as possible. I figure that, as we subscribe to 100% wind power, using the little extra power is the lesser of 2 evils! Mind you, I am obsessive with turning off all unused power points (lucky we only have about 6 in the whole house) and I have had the hot water service turned down (unfortunately it’s on electricity). I really enjoy you blog and your insights into a more sustainable lifestyle – it really gives me food for thought and reinforces the way I try to live! Thanks, Rebecca

  4. cheaplikeme says:

    I’ve got wind power, too, so that is great. Sadly, our stove, furnace and hot water heater all are on gas. They and our car make up most of our “evil” around here. And thanks for reading!

Comments are closed.