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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Step 2: reducing the unnecessary paper

Laptop and desktop computer in a house

Credit: Megan Ann, via Flickr.com, CC license

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Last week we took our first step to going paperless by replacing our disposable paper products with some more eco-friendly reusable ones. This week we’re going to look at ways to lose the piles of unnecessary paper that seem to creep into your home and office uninvited.

Today, take a look around your home and see what sorts of paper have made their way in. Magazines? Shopping catalogs? Newspapers? And tomorrow, have a look around where you work - are there printouts, handouts from meetings, diaries, or copies of policies you know like the back of your hand?

Let’s start with reducing paper in the home, since that’s a bit easier. Find a way to stop these items from even coming inside in the first place. We’re talking “No Junk Mail” stickers on your mailbox, and cancelling your Yellow Pages subscription (www.directoryselect.com.au). At best, the only mail you get should be bills and letters from friends (and on that note, go digital with your bills and friendly correspondence too)!

Ask yourself how much use you actually get from your daily newspaper - can you replace them by following some online news sites? Additionally, many mags (including G) now have digital versions.

Most of the ways to reduce your paper use are easily researched and done in a lunch-break or a weekend. Why not make a list and work your way down it? The added bonus of bringing less paper into your home is that it means you’ve got less to recycle or throw out. With more local councils considering charging for the amount of rubbish you put out on bin day, it’s worth making an effort.

Reducing unneeded paper in the office is a little more difficult, because it involves getting your colleagues or boss on board. My own office has gradually moved to keeping our policies and standards on our intranet (our internal site for staff only). This removes the need for printed handbooks, and makes it easier for them to be updated too. And instead of printing my webpages to test them, I ‘print’ them to PDF. This means I can keep or delete them without worrying about how many trees I killed just to check if I got the colours right.

I also use the calendar and task list in my email program instead of a diary. Someone has told me I can get it to send my phone an alert when I’ve got an appointment, in case I’m away from my desk when the reminder pops up - I’ll definitely be trying to set that up.

Some workplaces use PIN codes on their printers, so they can track how much paper people are using, and if they’re printing double-sided. The bonus for the staff is that they don’t get their printouts mixed in with someone elses, or printed on the bright yellow paper the receptionist was using to make posters about the Christmas party.

What other ways of reducing unnecessary paper can you think of? Leave your suggestions in the comments!