Small Ways to Make Big Environmental Changes: Cut Down on Paper

Paper waste

You are probably using WAY more paper than you even realize. We want to help you cut back.

Did you know that each year, 15 billion trees are cut down, but only four billion new ones are planted? Even in a world that is increasingly going digital, the average American uses about 474 pounds of paper each year. What the heck are we using all of this paper for, and how can we cut back on it? We pulled some advice from Laurie David and Heather Reisman’s new book, Imagine It!: A Handbook for a Happier Planet, that will hopefully help you shed a few of those paper pounds.

Know what can be recycled, and what can’t

About 60% of paper gets recycled, which is great news, especially when compared with plastic. So what’s wrong with that other 40%? Well, it once again is partially plastic’s fault. A lot of the paper we use is coated in plastic or wax. Cereal boxes, store receipts, paper cups — most of these items are coated, and that means it ends up in landfills. 

Some types of recycled paper are better than others

The best type of recycled paper you can use is called post-consumer recycled paper. This means it is made from paper that had previously been used, recycled, sanitized, and then turned into something else. There is also pre-consumer recycled paper, which is made from manufacturing scraps but hasn’t actually been used before. This is still better than something that hasn’t been recycled at all but doesn’t pack the environmental punch of postconsumer recycled paper. 

Reconsider your Morning Coffee

As we’ve been saying all month, little changes can lead to big changes! One of the easiest ways to help reduce paper waste is to switch from paper cups (which are often wax coated and end up in landfills) to a reusable mug. We don’t just mean in the office. Most coffee shops will make your favorite drink in a mug or container you bring from home. If you’re looking to save a few bucks, kick the coffee shop habit altogether and start making coffee at home. Be sure to pick up a washable reusable filter instead of single-use paper ones!