Cut down paper, not trees

Reduce, reduce, reduce … any time you can prevent paper from being used in the first place, you are conserving all the resources it takes to create the paper and the resources it would take to recycle it.

Here are a few tips to reduce paper use in your homes and offices:

  • Circulate documents electronically. PDF has become the standard format for files transferred electronically. Everyone with a computer can read them.
  • Preview before printing — this is like the carpentry adage “measure twice, cut once”. Fix your typos so that you don’t have to re-print.
  • Switch to receiving and paying bills online where you can.
  • Cut down on junk mail. Register with the Canadian Marketing Association to remove your name from direct mail lists. You have to do this every three years.
  • Print only what you need. If you absolutely have to print something from the internet, you can select which pages you want prior to printing.
  • Make a word processing template of your letterhead so that you can send letters electronically.
  • Look for paper alternatives — use a white board or chalk board for messages, instead of notepaper.
  • Consider getting newspaper, catalogues, and magazine subscriptions in electronic form.

When you’ve run through all the things you can to actually reduce paper, then it’s time to consider re-use and efficiency. Paper efficiency is much like energy efficiency. A more efficient car needs less gas to go the same distance as a less efficient car. However, just as energy efficiency is not about "freezing in the dark," improving paper efficiency does not mean losing any of the wanted information on the paper.

Tips for paper efficiency:

  • Print on both sides of the paper whenever you can. (Alternatively, put used paper with one side clean into your printer or photocopier).
  • If you have trouble proofreading documents on a computer screen, print your draft documents on used paper with one side clean.
  • Reduce the size of images and put more of them per page. Not only will it save paper, but it will also save on ink cartridges.
  • Reformat your documents to reduce the size of the margins. There is a “Small Margin Movement” which aims to get the standard margins in Word reduced from 1.25 ″ to .75”, resulting in about 1.14 trees saved for each ton of paper used for printing (see
  • Make notepads from scrap paper. (Make sure to recycle the notes when you are through with them).

If we treat paper like a precious resource, then we are also valuing the trees (and the water, energy, and air) that it is made from.

[Source: February 2008 WasteWatch ]