10 Easy Ways To Reduce Paper Consumption

Paper and paper products are among the most recycled items that we dispose of according to waste disposal statistics. However, considering that the average American consumes roughly 7 trees per year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees and that our combined dependence on trees equals a total of 2 billion trees each year, there is much we can do to reduce the number of trees cut down to support our costly paper habits. So, where can we start? Here’s a few easy ways to reduce your paper use and save a few trees:

1. Choose recycled paper products. Everything from recycled office paper to recycled toilet paper is available at our local grocery stores. By choosing products made from recycled paper, we can save the lives of trees. For every 17 trees saved, you are helping the earth to absorb 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.

2. Invest in reusable dinnerware (at home and for the office). Eating dinner at home usually means eating with washable glass and ceramic dish ware and cups, and with stainless steel or silver cutlery. But, what about the occasional take out night, BBQ, or eating out? Admittedly, it is easy to clean up disposable dinnerware, but by eating and drinking from washable and reusable ware, you can reduce the ware and tear on good old mama earth. If you must choose easy to dispose of dinnerware, look for eco-dinnerware that is biodegradable and earth friendly.

3. BYOB. That is, bring your own bag to the grocery store and other shops. A single tree produces only 700 paper grocery bags, which a moderately busy grocery store can blow through in an hour. This adds up to lots and lots of trees being eaten up to tote goodies back and forth between shops and home. Make a small difference and save the lives of a few trees. Bring your own, reusable shopping bag. Many reusable bags are available at supermarkets and hardware stores, and several fashionable and reusable shopping bags can be found for more style savvy shoppers.

4. Don’t forget your handkerchief. Saying sayonara to toilet paper may sound extreme, however, one T.P.-free family who chooses good old fashioned water and cloth say that these alternatives to T.P. are more sanitary. But, if going without T.P. gets you down, forest friendly toilet paper is now available. According to Greenpeace’s Kleercut.net, brands of toilet that are ancient forest friendly include: CVS Bathroom Tissue 1000, Cascades, Marcal, Natural Value, Earth First, Seventh Generation, Trader Joe’s, 365 Everyday Value. To learn whether or not your current T.P. is ancient forest friendly, click here. A 2005 issue of Ideal Bite explains the benefits of replacing virgin fiber toilet paper with paper made from post consumer content, noting that if all American households switched only a single roll, almost a half million trees each year could be saved.

5. Boycott Paper towels. With a new baby in tow, streamline my cleaning routine added up to more leisure time for my husband and me (which we liked to devote to sleep). Rather than going through an entire roll of paper towels each week for house cleaning, we use several cleaning rags and attractive dish towels. Now when there’s a mess to clean up, even my 19 month old knows how to wipe up a mess with a cloth dish towel.

6. Choose digital subscriptions. Our family refuses to buy magazines from the news stand and only purchases used magazines from our local library. However, when we’re eager to read fresh news, we hop onto the internet and check out our favorite zines. On-line magazine and newspaper subscriptions are available at TheMagazineBoy.com and at Barnes & Noble’s on-line shop.

7. Visit your local library. All you need to do is sign up for a library card and voila! You now have free access to books galore, all at the low, low price of, FREE! Borrowing books from the library is a fantastic way to save paper (and ink) and money. Support your local library and your own budget by borrowing and not buying books.

8. Personalize gift wrap. Paper gift wrap isn’t the only way to wrap a present. I’m not suggesting that you repurpose old newspaper for gift giving, but there are so many creative ways that we can stylize gift wrap without adding to paper consumption. One of my favorite ways to package gifts is to repurpose old cigar boxes by  decoupaging the box, dressing up an already attractive box with ribbon, and painting cigar boxes with eco-friendly paint. Danny Seo, an environmental crafter and lifestyle expert, has a fabulous book called Simply Green Giving detailing creative ways to present gifts in recycled containers, repurposing common items for gift wrap rather than wasting paper gift wrap.

9. Say No to Receipts. Do you really need a receipt at the bank, the gas station, or from your local coffee shop? By declining your receipt, you are helping save paper, and collectively, the lives of trees. Understandably, some receipts are necessary for our taxes and for items we may need to return. However, when all that receipts to add up to is a heap of paper in your wallet or purse, say no to these little slips of paper.

10. Pay attention to packaging. Buy your favorite products in bulk and with minimal packaging. Better yet, eat fresh foods and cook your own meals rather than eating out, which often results in unnecessary wasted paper and other food packaging.

Saving our trees is as simple as making a few, manageable changes to our everyday lives. By reducing your household’s use of paper you are making a huge difference for our planet. What are you favorite ways to reduce paper consumption and save the lives of trees? We’d love to hear more. Please have your say in the comments.

Jessica Monte also blogs about natural parenting and the environment at Green Mamma and API Speaks.

Original 5 Minutes for Going Green post.

19 Responses to 10 Easy Ways To Reduce Paper Consumption
  1. Ronda
    August 4, 2008 | 8:49 am

    Those are really great ideas! Can you just imagine if some of us would only adopt a few changes…what a difference it would make!

  2. Beth (Coming Up For Air)
    August 4, 2008 | 10:16 am

    This is a great post! I refuse to give up TP…but I like that there are alternatives that are earth friendly! :)

  3. Mrs. Greenhands
    August 4, 2008 | 10:55 am

    Great Tips!

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  5. Jessica
    August 4, 2008 | 1:13 pm

    Our family has yet to give up T.P., although we rarely have paper towels in our home. I’m glad these tips are helpful, and I’d love to learn other ways that we can cut down our paper use.

  6. Abbie
    August 4, 2008 | 1:39 pm

    Love it!

    Here’s how I save paper at school (I teach high school):
    -Make a CD of important documents (articles, study guides, lab handouts, etc.) for the whole year, and hand them out to my classes for the year
    -Post links to websites and articles on my website
    -Accept papers and homework via email
    -Make a PowerPoint of instructions and assignments, and project it instead of making copies for each student

    These steps save the environment, and save my time (and sanity) at the xerox machine

  7. Maddy
    August 4, 2008 | 4:13 pm

    Duly noted!

  8. Veggie Mom
    August 4, 2008 | 4:37 pm

    Thanks for the tips. In addition to saying “no” to receipts, I also leave behind the coupons I won’t use so someone else can use them. And, I know this isn’t paper, but I bring my own bags to the grocery store (they give us back 5 cents for every bag we bring ourselves) AND when I make a modest purchase anywhere, I request no bag and just carry the merchandise out myself. BTW, Uncle Lynn has given me the go-ahead to do another Great Pop’rs Giveaway, which ties in nicely with your idea of treating ourselves, and our planet, in a more friendly manner–it kicks off tomorrow, so please tune in!

  9. Julie
    August 5, 2008 | 12:04 am

    Another couple that we do or will be doing:
    * Use cloth for wrapping paper (I blogged about how to dye silk with natural dye here: http://chezartz.com/?p=271), although I love the cigar-box idea too!

    * Go digital with the camera & only print the photos you want to scrapbook/display (I can’t tell you how much paper we’ve cut out since we started doing this–we take probably a hundred photos a week!)

    * Go digital on the Christmas cards (we’re going to do this for the first time this year, which is hard, because I’m a 200-card-per-year addict, but I just can’t stomach all that paper!).

    * Sign up for a junk mail removal service–sure most of the mail is recyclable, but let’s avoid it in the first place: http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs4-junk.htm#getofflist

    Great post Jessica!

  10. Jessica
    August 5, 2008 | 8:04 am

    Thanks Julie! Great suggestions!

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    August 8, 2008 | 12:51 pm

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  12. diana
    August 13, 2008 | 1:16 pm

    Thanks for posting these great office greening tips! One of the most important and easiest things to adopt is a Recycled Paper purchasing policy–that is, purchasing paper that is at least 30% Post-Consumer Recycled — in order to reduce paper consumption.

    Another great way to save energy and help the environment is by using something called Green Print, which eliminates unnecessarily pages and images during printing. For more tips on ways to green your office, you can also visit our site at http://www.thegreenoffice.com

  13. Jessica
    August 13, 2008 | 1:31 pm

    Thanks Diana! Not only will I purchase post consumer paper products but I will keep your company in mind too. Also, is Green Print a software program?

  14. manuel
    August 27, 2008 | 2:34 am

    does anyone have a lead on how much gift wrap paper is produced or consumed yearly in the world for the holidays?

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  19. […] Easy Steps to Start Recycling This entry was written by Design The Planet Team, posted on July 23, 2010 at 10:30 am, filed under Design the Planet. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. […]