Posts filed under ‘Paper’
Paper use is, at times, astounding. The average American uses 700 pounds of paper per year, which is over 7 trees per person. There are some very easy things you can do to reduce your paper use.
- Stop getting junk mail. This probably won’t be much of a burden. Simply visit Waukesha County’s website to learn how to get off of junk mail lists. Think this won’t make a difference? Every person in our country gets about 250 pieces of unsolicited mail every year, and in the course of a lifetime, you’ll spend about 8 months sorting through it! This easy fix saves time and money. As a quick reminder: if you do get junk mail it is recyclable. Even paper envelopes with plastic windows belong in your blue bin, not the trash.
- Cool as the other side of the paper. Set your printers at work and home to print duplex. Work printers usually have this option, which is easily set. At home, you may need to feed your paper through the printer twice. This post by TechSoup will walk you through the duplexing do-si-do whether you have a duplexing printer or not. Duplexing just not possible? Use the other side of the paper for scratch paper. I like using junk mail envelopes for grocery lists, for example. I just keep all the coupons for that week in the envelope.
- Make paper reduction automatic. Set up automatic bill pay through your bank or the companies that send you bills. Everyone saves postage and paper, and everyone is happy.
- Give wrapping the axe. Wrapping paper is a huge use of paper products. Consider using more creative wrapping that is reusable, like wrapping a kitchen gift in towels or use reusable gift boxes. Need some ideas? I kept track of gifts & how I wrapped them for the holiday season in 2008 and 2007.
- Use & Reuse. Whenever possible, use reusable plates, cups, and napkins, and rags for cleaning. By avoiding single-use paper products you can save yourself a lot of money as well as a lot of paper.
Waukesha County’s sustainability program has a lot of great information about reducing paper use at work.
So why not give it a try? This week, try to reduce your paper use. What ideas worked for you? What other ideas do you have? I’d love to hear about them!
An interesting editorial in the La Crosse Tribune (found via the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voter’s blog) talks about the importance of protecting our natural resources, like groundwater. I would add the importance of residents participating in their local recycling program as a way to protect natural resources.
Wisconsin requires recycling by banning certain items from landfills. These include items Waukesha residents can recycle in their curbside bins:
- plastic bottles & jugs (#1′s and #2′s)
- steel cans
- aluminum cans
Other items including grass clippings, tires, and motor oil are also banned from landfills. By recycling these items, residents protect natural resources like
- iron ore
- divers forests of trees
By reducing the demand for these natural resources we insure that the habitats effected by gathering these resources stay intact. Two key habitats affected include the rain forests (bauxite) and temperate and boreal forests (trees used for paper products).
Despite the fact that recycling is such an easy way for residents to ease the strain on our natural resources, Wisconsin’s recycling rate hovers around 35%. The national recycling rate for plastic #1 bottles (i.e. soda & water bottles) is an abysmal 23%. As we all focus on Earth Day festivities this week and the importance of saving natural resources, consider a small action to make everyday Earth Day and make sure you recycle 100% of what you can.
Want to do one better? Tell a friend about the importance of recycling. I’d love to hear ideas: how do you share recycling with those you know?
Recently I talked about the most popular type of paper discarded, corrugated boxes. Over 30 million tons of corrugated boxes are disposed of each year. After talking to some great people here at the AROW (Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin) Conference, I thought I would take a quick look at the other end of the spectrum: phone books.
Each year directories make up 3/10 of 1% of our paper waste, according to the EPA. While it is relatively a small amount of what we discard, like all small things, the directories do add up. Approximately 500 million directories, which includes everything from the big directories you get delivered to your home down to the little directory your school or organization prints for its members, are printed every year. Therefore, it is very important to know that your phone book is completely recyclable.
Reduce. If you wish to no longer receive phone directories, contact the companies to have your name removed from their mailing lists. There are many ways of accessing the information, like apps for your cell phone and the like.
Reuse. I’m not sure about reuse strategies for phone books. Maybe a foot rest? Wrapping paper? Just a thought.
Recycle. Phone books are completely recyclable. If you are one of the 77% of Americans who do use a printed copy of the Yellow Pages to get your information, remember its final resting place is in your blue bin. The industry has worked to make sure that everything about the book is recyclable. Do your part to get it in the bin.
Rebuy. According to the Yellow Pages, they produce directories from recycled paper waste and wood fiber waste. Using recycled paper helps create strong recycling markets. Do your part and purchase paper made with recycled content (post-consumer is best!).
When I am giving presentations or MRF Tours, people have a lot of questions about recycling paper. The first tends to be “Why should I recycle paper?” Recycling paper is important for several reasons. Like all recycling, it creates jobs and supports a very important industry in Wisconsin. Additionally, recycling paper saves natural resources. For every ton of paper recycled:
- 17 trees are not cut down
- 7,000 gallons of water are not used
- 380 gallons of oil will not be used
- 3 cubic yards of landfill space will not be filled
- enough energy will be saved to heat your home for 6 months
So while saving trees as a natural resource is great, it is by no means the only natural resource being saved. Additionally, when you use recycled paper you are not only saving trees but, in some cases, you are saving diverse forests. There have been accounts that some forests cut down for paper are not ‘tree farms’, but rather old-growth forests. A recent article in the New York Times explains that for certain types of paper, old growth trees must be used. This article focuses on the need to use old-growth forests to make certain types of toilet paper.
Another very common question is “What kinds of paper can I recycle?” In Waukesha County, Wisconsin the following types of paper can be placed in a paper bag or bundled with twine to be collected for recycling:
- newspapers can be recycled
- magazines can be recycled
- advertisements in newspapers can be recycled
- junk mail can be recycled
- envelopes with plastic windows can be recycled
- old homework can be recycled
- printer paper can be recycled (and also reused!)
- construction paper can be recycled
- cardboard can be recycled (and also reduced or reused!)
- phone books can be recycled
- chipboard can be recycled (i.e. cereal boxes, the box that comes around your soda, etc.)
- toilet paper tubes can be recycled
- paper towel tubes can be recycled
Types of paper that cannot be recycled include any paper that has come into contact with wet or greasy food (i.e. pizza boxes or ice cream boxes) and wrapping paper. Also, when you get those credit card offers, make sure to throw the ‘sticky booger’ that attaches the credit card to the paper makes it in the trash as well. All of these items can ruin the paper recycling process down the line.
Paper is 70% of the material that comes into our material recycling facility. We use a ton of paper – if you stack up the paper used by an average office worker in a year, the stack would be over 4 feet tall! Not only is this a huge use of natural resources, but it is also a huge cost. The cost of an average ream of paper is minimal in comparison to the total cost of that paper when you factor in printing on it, storing it, mailing it, and disposing it. The average cost of a ream of paper with all these factors, rises to $62. How much money and resources could you save if you reduce your paper use? In the Department of Parks and Land Use at Waukesha County, the answer is over $17,000 in 2 years.
Some strategies that you can easily implement to your daily routine include:
- Think before you print. Can you store it electronically? A well organized electronic filing system allows you to store e-mails, documents, pictures, and other data in an easily searchable environment.
- Think before you print multiple copies. In our office we have to print lots of agendas. Sometimes we know how many people will be coming to the meeting, sometimes not. Create standards for average attendance and don’t print more than you think you will need. Alternatively, consider making agendas available online or via e-mail before the meeting and have people bring their own copy. This also allows attendees to be better prepared for the meeting.
- Think before you print a copy for everyone and their brother. Route memos through the office. Have a central filing cabinet for documents used by multiple people in the office. One example of a file I keep in the central filing cabinet is background information on Houseshold Hazardous Waste and another on composting.
- Think before you print a ‘final copy’. Use document editing software to review comments via your network. Print draft copies or copies that will not be seen by clients or the public on scratch paper. Default your printer to a tray filled with this type of scratch paper.
- Network. Make sure your computer is networked to others. If you don’t have a network, consider online applications like Google documents to make sure that everyone has access to documents. Google Documents saved me a lot of printing while I was planning my wedding. I was able to keep everyone up-to-date with schedules, to-do lists, and more.
- Get your name off of junk mail lists. Whether it be personally or professionally, there are a lot of sites that can help you get your name off of mailing lists. A few to visit include Catalogue Choice, Yellow Pages, and for more information Waukesha County’s Recycling site.
These are just a few ideas… What are your favorite ways to reduce paper?