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We’ve all done it.An old wartime poster asking people to save waste paper

“All the details were in my email. Let me go and print it out before the meeting.”

“No problem, I’ll send you the bill in the post.”

Do either of those sound familiar? It happens in offices and other workplaces up and down the country every second of every day. Paper is being wasted all the time.

In Britain our recycling efforts have improved dramatically over the last 15 to 20 years. In the decade between 1998 and 2008 alone, the amount of household waste that we disposed of in an environmentally friendly way increased 800%.

But some of the little things that we do everyday, particularly at work, still create lots of waste. And needlessly wasting paper is one of those little everyday things.

So how can you reduce the amount of paper your business uses? The following 10 tips can help:

1. Do you really need to print that document? Do you? All of it?

It sounds simple, but don’t print out something that you don’t have to.

If you do need to print out something, is every single page in the document needed? If you need just two pages out of five, take the time to amend this in your printing settings. And remember if you’re printing a document that’s had text from the web copied and pasted into a word processing program, the formatting will be affected. Get rid of the bits that you don’t actually need before hitting print.

Document printed out but only half used

2. It’s the age of smartphones and increased connectivity- keep digital copies of things!

Store all your documents on your computers. Do you still have to keep paper copies of absolutely everything?

If you need them on the go, save them to your smartphones and tablets. More and more places, from hotels to restaurants, can take proof of a booking, for example, just by looking at your email confirmation in your email inbox on your phone.

3. Ditch those flip pads – nobody can understand your scribbles, anyway!

Flip pads are great for jotting down ideas in meetings and brainstorming sessions, but they waste a lot of unnecessary paper.

What’s wrong with a whiteboard? They do the job just as well and, if you need to re-use the space, simply wipe off what you’ve written. Get those smartphones out to take any pictures of the notes, too. And, if you’ve not got the space on your wall for one, you can even get mobile whiteboards that are mounted on wheels.

Flipchart in meeting room

4. Cancel any unnecessary magazine subscriptions

How many of those trade publications that land on your desk do you actually read?

Subscriptions are expensive. You could be saving £5 a month or more by cancelling. If you do actually read them, have you looked to see whether the publication has an online version you can sign up to, instead? They’re generally a lot cheaper, contain all the same information and use no paper whatsoever!


Pile of magazines in waiting room

5. If you don’t use both sides of your notepad, half the notepad you paid for is wasted!

Again, this is something that many of us do on a regular basis, but why? You’ve filled one side of paper, you ignore the other side of it and start on a new page. What’s wrong with it?

If it’s just to make notes at your desk, you can make those notebooks and pads last longer by writing on both sides of the paper.

6. It’s not the size that counts, it’s what you do with it that matters

If you’re printing out, or intend to write just a couple of lines, don’t use large sized paper. If you don’t have small notepads or smaller pieces of paper to hand, why not cut some larger pieces in half and put what you don’t need into a scrap paper draw for next time?

Collection of paper notebooks

7. Move to paperless bills

Help your customers and other businesses to be smarter with their paper usage by sending out bills and invoices electronically. If they do want paper copies, put them into an attached document for them to print off and let it be their choice.

8. Send more emails

Despite the decline in recent years in the amount of post that we send, sending letters out to customers, for example, is still necessary from time to time. However, if you can say whatever it is you want to say in an email, then send it electronically, instead. It’s quicker and cheaper to send and, with increased connectivity, will help you to get feedback and answers back more speedily, too.

9. Consider cloud technology

Google’s Drive and Microsoft’s Skydrive are great free examples of collaborative programs. When working on large projects with a team of people, do you find yourself printing out lots of information and drafts and redrafts? With these two programs you can create documents, share them with your team and have live, real-time conversations whilst in the document. It’s brilliant for this kind of work as it’s organised, uses less paper and, crucially, is saved in the cloud, meaning you can access your saved worked from anywhere with an internet connection.

Screenshot of Google Drive

10. Nobody likes paper towels anymore

Whether in the kitchen or toilets, paper towels are never durable, make bins overflow and are never big enough, meaning you have to use more than one. Invest in hand dryers for the the toilets (you’ll save money in the long-run) and, in the kitchen, just use good, old-fashioned cloths and tea-towels and wash them regularly.

How many paper sins are you guilty of? What does your business do to tackle the problem of paper waste?

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