Paper is to an office like buns are to a burger. The two often go hand in hand and you rarely think that one could operate well without the other. Despite advances in technology, paper continues to fill even the most modern of offices.
Over 300 million tons of paper are produced around the world every year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “the average office worker generates approximately two pounds of paper and paperboard products every day.” Two pounds. Every day. That’s over 400 pounds of paper every year for every worker. That’s a lot of paper.
Although many offices and employees are striving to go paperless, our dependence on this versatile product has not seemed to decrease. Look around your own office. How many paper products are lying around your desk, in your files, and let’s not even talk about the copy rooms? Paper is everywhere and many times it’s a nuisance more than a tool. Given the technology we are equipped with today, there’s no reason our paper consumption cannot be cut down dramatically or eliminated.
If you’re unsure how you or your workplace can achieve a paperless office, these five tips will help you kiss your piles of paper goodbye.
Bea Johnson states in her book, Zero Waste Home, that the first step to a zero waste life is to refuse the waste from coming into your space. In that same spirit, the first step to a paperless office is refusing paper from making its way in. We can do this by declining business cards and printed presentations, and instead requesting that their electronic versions be emailed.
At a conference, we can electronically note vendors and speakers instead of grabbing pamphlets and brochures, which usually end up in the recycling bin anyway. If we continue to refuse paper, our colleagues and communities will begin to recognize this and naturally start distributing information electronically.
Think before you print
Have you ever seen the little message at the end of an email that read something like “please consider the environment before printing this email”? Well that same consideration should be given not only to emails, but to anything we may print. If you spend five seconds to consider whether printing something out will actually be beneficial, you will likely find that keeping things in their electronic formats is the way to go.
It’s easy to become print-happy when paper and a printer are so easily accessible and you’re not the one financing the process. However, consider the clutter paper makes around the office and the amount of resources it takes to recycle paper. Once you recognize your printing habits and make an effort to reduce them, your paper piles will decrease dramatically, hopefully to the point of non-existence.
Ditch the business cards
Business cards are the emblem of every working professional. Without them, one is either considered unprofessional or unimportant. Business cards are one of the first things you give to someone at a meeting and what you carry around in abundance at a conference.
However, when was the last time you actually took out a business card to find a phone number or email? Chances are that you already saved the information into your phone or computer or lost the card all together. In today’s digital age, I have decided to say farewell to these little cards. Not only do they use up valuable resources, they also create clutter. Instead of business cards, I email colleagues my virtual contact card. That saves them the step of inputting the information into their devices and we all save paper.
Promote the use of electronic signatures
If you have ever worked in an administrative role like I have, you understand that getting the signature of a high-level executive who is constantly traveling can be one of the most difficult things to obtain. When the signature is done on paper, it can be even more challenging because you also have to keep track of the physical document if the executive is unable to sign it on the same day you print it.
This makes for a lot of extra work. With the help of programs like Adobe Acrobat Pro and DocuSign, obtaining electronic signatures has never been more convenient. These programs not only make things easier on the person in charge of the document, but they make things easier on the signer as well because the individual can sign from anywhere.
Use a laptop or tablet for notes
This last tip is one that I myself need to take into consideration. I have always preferred taking notes by hand because I felt like I could write faster than I could type. As a student prior to the technological revolution, I was designed to take notes manually, making manual note-taking comfortable for me. What this has left me with however, are multiple notebooks, which I rarely reference. When referencing is required it usually takes me hours to find what I’m looking for.
Recently, I’ve started electronic note-taking on a laptop or tablet, and although it is still a bit awkward, I have found that I’m able to organize my notes more easily and find what I am looking for within seconds. In addition, I can actually distinguish what is typed out versus having to decipher my chicken scratch. This also allows for easier sharing of notes among colleagues and a decrease to my notebook pile.
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