Over a decade ago, I was inspired by a lady called Mandy Haggith, who taught me all about our paper footprint.
She calculated that the average person uses around 250kg of paper per year. It’s made up of things like newspapers, receipts, toilet paper, packaging and printer paper.
Another source I found, suggest that the average UK family uses 6 trees worth of paper in a year.
It’s a topic worth revisiting, so let’s look at some of the ways we can all use less paper and reduce our paper footprint:
Close the Loop
If you do have paper products you need to buy – such as printer paper – then close the loop by purchasing a recycled option. It is estimated that every tonne of paper recycled, saves 17 trees. It’s all very well recycling our paper at home, but we need to create demand by opting for recycled purchases where possible. Look for 100% post consumer waste recycled where possible.
When I was a young child, my mum used to take me to my bank, where I would produce a passport-sized book, which would log all the money I paid in and withdrew. Once a month I would get a paper statement in the post. Nowadays, it’s easy to dramatically reduce the amount of paper you use by switching to digital banking. You can do virtually all transactions online. There are even all-online international bank account apps as well as day-to-day apps to meet every banking need.
While being 100% paperless might not be realistic, there are many ways to reduce paper usage. Most utility companies offer digital statements – such as your electricity and gas supplier, water supplier and internet provider. Many used to offer a financial incentive for switching to paper free options, so it’s worth asking them.
Set printers to duplex
If you need to print things at home, set your printer to duplex. This will roughly halve the amount of paper you are using. You can find instructions here to see whether your printer supports double-sided printing.
Wherever I am forced to print one sided I then use the back of that paper for writing my To Do lists, instead of buying notebooks or using fresh paper. And while we’re talking about printing, eliminate those frustrating and wasteful situations where there is just one line of print on a page by checking page breaks before printing.
Stop Junk Mail
In the UK you can sign up to the Mail Preference Service. This will reduce about 80% of addressed junk mail coming to your home. Be aware that you need to reapply every two years or so. You’ll know when you need to reapply, as junk mail will start to sneak its way back through your letterbox.
For unaddressed junk mail, you need to apply for door to door opt out. Here is how to sign out of both addressed and unaddressed direct mail with Royal Mail. If you order anything from a company, be sure to check boxes which say you do NOT want paper catalogues or mail in the post. And if you get them, don’t be afraid to return to sender and get your name off their mailing list.
Reduce kitchen towels
I have to admit, this is an uphill struggle for me. Many of us have a roll of kitchen towel handy, but more often than not its unnecessary. Cleaning cloths can be made from old cotton bedding or unworn t-shirts. One statistic I read suggested that if every household in the U.S. used just one less 70-sheet roll of paper towels, that would save 544,000 trees each year! Remember that if you do use kitchen towel for mopping up spills, it can be composted at home.
Use digital subscriptions
I used to be an avid magazine reader. It’s a habit I’ve dropped in recent years, but with so many digital options available, it’s not hard to get your fix sans paper. When I did buy magazines, I would always pass them on to friends, neighbours or donate to a local dr surgery or community library, so they at least had a few reads before being recycled.
What about you? This is just scratching the surface. What would you add to the list?