11 tips to save paper in the office

Most of us are already wearing multiple hats at work, but there’s one, in particular, we should all consider adding to our repertoire: in-office conservationist.

No matter what type of office you work in, chances are, there’s a mountain of paper being wasted daily.

Recycling paper is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of giving back to the environment while saving the company money and improving productivity officewide.

Switch from paper to online forms

Whether you’re sending customer satisfaction surveys, asking for product feedback, or submitting vacation requests, using online forms is more convenient and efficient as well as less expensive. In addition, online forms allow you to integrate responses automatically with other business software your company uses.

Nowadays, online form builders such as JotForm Mobile Forms, allow you to collect responses without a pen, paper, or even Wi-Fi.

Archive files digitally 

If you have multiple filing cabinets filled to bursting with documents, it’s time to consider saving your files digitally. Saving your documents to a server or cloud-based system is not only a great, eco-friendly solution, but it can also improve office productivity and save on storage costs. 

From employee handbooks to company policies and onboarding procedures, storing documents online allows employees to access them at their leisure. Plus, an organized digital system ensures that files are stored to your liking (not shoved into a folder) and won’t be lost in the shuffle.

Send email, Slack, and text updates 

One of the most overlooked ways to save paper is to cut back on how often we remind or alert our office mates of company updates via paper. Unlike paper updates, email, Slack, and text messages can be repeatedly sent without harming the environment and are more likely to be remembered than a slip of paper placed on a desk weeks ago.

Think before you print 

If you opt for printing company announcements instead of circulating them digitally, consider posting one centrally placed bulletin rather than printing multiple copies. Highly trafficked areas, such as the company lunchroom or by the watercooler, make for ideal locations to grab your coworkers’ attention. By printing only one copy, you save paper and create a hub for all employee-related updates.

In addition, if you’re planning on printing a lengthy document, proofread it twice to ensure it will look exactly how you’ve envisioned it once printed. For example, if you’re circulating a draft of a document around the office, encourage all team members to make their edits electronically using tracked changes or similar tools. By perfecting your work before going to print, you can help save paper that would have been wasted with each round of revisions.

Get rid of cover sheets

If you still have to “fax” the occasional document, here’s a trick to save paper. If you’re using Microsoft Word, simply toggle to the File tab, click on “Send To,” followed by “Fax Recipient,” and fill out all appropriate fields from there.

If you’re not using Word, simply eliminate a cover sheet and opt for fax stick-on labels instead.

Both methods help eliminate some, if not all, of the paper that goes into sending a traditional fax.

Switch to electronic reporting 

While it might not be plausible to cut back on reporting (though, that might be nice), consider disseminating reports digitally. Whether sent as a shared Google Doc, spreadsheet, or PDF, these reports can be easily retrieved. Not only will this help save paper, but it will also save time when you need to reference last month’s ROI.

Take notes digitally 

Generally speaking, all meetings benefit from an agenda or brief. Both help to prep coworkers prior to kickoff and can keep the meeting on track in a time crunch. However, handing out a paper brief to all attendees can mean printing the same bullet points 20+ times.

Instead, opt for paperless meetings powered by digital briefs. To help manage expectations, forward the agenda — whether as a separate doc or as a note on the invite — with the meeting invitation. This way all attendees get the brief upfront and can prepare accordingly.

Print on both sides of the paper 

While this might seem obvious to many, printing on only one side will use double the amount of paper for each project. By preprogramming your preferences — as well as those of the rest of the office — to double-sided printing, you could theoretically reduce paper waste by half within a few weeks.

Use scrap paper for note-taking

According to U.K. based company Restore Datashred, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper per year; 6,800 of those 10,000 sheets are then tossed in the trash.

If you have paper that hasn’t been printed on both sides, consider using the blank side to jot down notes or map out an idea. Repurposed paper can serve as the whiteboard for a brainstorming session without contributing additional waste like single-use sticky notes do.

Buy recycled paper 

Copy paper is available in a variety of thicknesses, typically ranging from 60 grams per square meter (gsm) to 100 gsm. Heavier weight sheets use significantly more fiber per sheet and are generally more expensive. Opting for thinner paper (like the 60–70 gsm variety) won’t change printing performance and can be lighter on your wallet and the environment.

In addition, consider purchasing paper made from hemp, organic cotton, or prerecycled paper materials. With more individuals sourcing paper from alternative avenues, fewer trees will need to be cut down for new paper production.

Repurpose printed materials 

After you’ve squeezed all usefulness from your paper, be sure to recycle it. Make it easy for coworkers to get into the habit as well by making recycling bins accessible and clearly labeling them.

Likewise, consider investing in a shredder for sensitive documents — this can help prevent important information from getting into the wrong hands. Plus, shredded paper can then be repurposed as packaging filler. 

You might not be able to save the world by saving paper. But by following these 11 tips to save paper in the office, you can feel confident you’re doing your part to help encourage a sustainability-conscious company.

This article is originally published on Dec 19, 2019, and updated on Jan 17, 2020.
Climate change activist. Loves the world we love in, wants to leave a clean planet to his babygirl. Diver for 15+ years. The Red Sea is his backyard.

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