By Fredrica Syren:
I swear it used to be that, every time I went to my mailbox to get my mail, I would find paper equal to at least one tree. Of course, most of this paper ended up in my recycling bin sooner or later. I always felt it was such waste: that’s when my quest for a paperless life began.
Most of the paper that entered my mailbox was in the form of advertisements and penny savers, but there also were bills, bank statements, etc. This is a huge waste of resources, which has a major impact on the environment. It’s estimated that an average 680 pounds of paper per person is used each year in the U.S., and over 19 million tons of paper end up in landfills. So striving toward a paperless life is a great way to promote green living.
Going paperless might seem daunting but, today, nearly everything involved with running a household can be done electronically: paying bills; doing taxes; receiving coupons, airplane boarding passes, and event tickets; and sharing photos. Here a few ways for you to eliminate some of the paper entering you home:
Online Billing—This is a very easy way to reduce you paper consumption. Start by contacting the companies that send you paper bills in the mail and ask about online billing. Many organizations have begun to offer electronic billing, and once you sign up, your bills will be sent digitally to your email inbox, not via paper mail. Many times you can even find the instructions for setting up online payments somewhere on your paper bill.
Fill Out Tax Forms Electronically—Even the IRS has joined the green movement of less paper, so these days the IRS accepts digital filing. This is true for many other countries, too. This year, my husband and I both filled out and signed our taxes via text, which is an option in Sweden. There is also no need to keep paper copies of anything related to your taxes if you use an “electronic storage system” such as a PC with reliable backup. So, if you ever get audited, you can just simply send the relevant files on a USB drive, instead of tons of photocopy and boxed up paper files.
Choose Eco-cloth Towels and Napkins—It’s been years since I bought paper towels for my kitchen because I invested in eco-cloth paper towels that are so smart. You can roll them up on an empty kitchen paper roll and, since the towels snap together, it’s like having real paper towels, so you just pull off one when needed. They are washable and reusable, and they look great. Using these and cloth napkins instead of paper will save a ton of paper.
Eliminate Junk Mail—Junk mail just has to be the most wasteful thing ever. I will guess that I’m not the only one who never looks at junk mail. It wastes a tremendous amount of paper, trees, resources and time. Here in Sweden, where we live, we have the option of putting a sign on our mailbox that says “No Junk Mail.” It’s a very effective way to stop junk from arriving at your home. In the U.S., you can place a “No Free Papers” sign on the mailbox. Another way to stop junk mail in the U.S. or U.K. requires a little more time and effort but is worth it for stopping all that wasted paper: contact the mail preference service for the U.S. and the mailing preference service in the U.K. These do-not-mail lists are maintained by the major marketing associations that distribute the major mailing lists, and they help you get onto an opt-out list by mail.
There are so many good reasons for going paperless: it’s good for the planet; it frees up square footage; saves time finding documents; has redundant secure backup; saves trees; and, with businesses and banks starting to charge fees for paper statements and bills, you’ll also save money.