< BACK: Printing, recycling, and what paper to buy

"Today, paper makes up 35 percent of our waste stream, but only 48 percent of the paper products we use is recovered for recycling. That means over half the paper we use is filling up our landfills and rotting in our trash."

— Megan Prusynski, Green Options

Printers, copiers and faxes, oh my. What a lot of ways there are to use waste paper in the workplace. But these helpful tips can save your office 20 to 50 to, I don't know, a bunch more percent of its paper usage.

1) Print less. The U.S. Department of Commerce has determined that paper and printing account for 5 to 15 percent of corporate expenditures, so it stands to reason that if your business saves letter- and legal-sized paper, it will save a lot of little pieces of paper, too. So don't print and distribute that memo à la "Jerry Maguire" (I know, I know, it was a mission statement), send it electronically. Do you really need a hard copy of that e-mail? Do you really need to print your first draft? Think before you print, and print wisely. Mother Nature and your accountant will thank you for it.

2) Get rid of your fax machine. Seriously. A fax machine (facsimile machine, if you're fancy) is just a big carbon footprint hooked up to a phone line. Think about it: How often do you send faxes? Receive them? And yet, the fax machine is on all the time, probably 24 hours a day, sucking up energy. You have to print out your document to fax it, and then it prints out again, somewhere else! That's two print-outs per faxed document, not to mention cover sheets and confirmation pages. You can get an Internet fax service; it uses no paper and no more energy than your network uses already.

3) Shrink your print jobs. Here's where you'll find the greatest paper savings. Printing on both sides of a page reduces paper usage by half. Print two pages' worth of text on each side, and — boom! — another 50 percent reduction. This is really obvious, but because it takes an extra 20 seconds and may not look as pretty, people don't usually do it. And so I reiterate. If your eyes can stand it, narrow your margins and miniaturize your fonts. Print one copy for every five people. Check print preview and set only specific pages to print — modern word processors make this easy — or get software that will do it for you. It all amounts to a savings of paper, ink and lots o' cash.

4) Recycle your paper. This includes not only copy paper, but newspapers, junk mail, folders, boxes — anything that tears. Around 80 percent of the paper products you use can be recycled, and more than once. Save landfill space and trees; keep the cycle going with the help of some strategically placed recycling bins.

5) Buy recycled paper. Of course, all this recycling is of no use if no one buys the result. And you can find all kinds of recycled paper products, from copy paper to toilet paper, from cups to coffee filters. Remember, the EPA recommends at least 30 percent recycled content, but also, the higher the percentage, the more trees you're sparing (here's a little tip from me to you: 100 percent is the best).

How do you do it?

If you've found a crafty way to save paper in your workplace — found another printer trick perhaps, or perfected the paperless meeting — let us know. How do you reuse your scrap paper? Paper-airplane races to boost morale? Bedding for Binky, the office hamster? MNN would like to hear your ideas and stories. Tell us about how you made your office recycling program a success, or what kind of sustainable paper your company prefers. Your contributions may help others green up their offices.