Do you have any idea how much paper you account for every day?
Start with what you use at home plus what you use at the office plus the mail you receive plus packaging of your purchases plus your share of government paperwork plus . . .
Well, you get the idea. If you’re an American, your share of all paper used in the US includes much more than you ever personally see.
Too much of it gets discarded after a single use. Despite recycling, waste paper accounts for a high percentage of total volume in landfills.
According to the following infographic, Americans use more than 65 billion sheets of paper every day. I have tried to verify that number and found it difficult. Most statistics are expressed by weight. An article I found posted in 2014 suggests half as many pages, but another article estimates that use of office paper doubles in about three years.
Regardless of whatever number is most nearly correct, Americans (and Canadians) use—and waste–much more paper than anyone else in the world.
Modern technology has promised the “paperless society” for decades, while actual use of paper has grown by leaps and bounds.
Some companies have worked toward achieving zero waste to the landfill. That requires that they at least partially quit paper. Other companies make it their business to help other businesses reduce paper waste in the workplace.
How can we reduce waste paper at home?
Reduce: The first step requires using less paper to begin with. For example:
- We can receive bank statements or recurring bills electronically instead of in the mail. Magazine and newspaper subscriptions, too.
- We can request not to receive catalogs and other bulk mail.
- We can choose to purchase whatever products use the least packaging.
- We can choose not to print whatever documents we can store on computer hard drives, both at home and at work.
Reuse: We all occasionally need to make notes for ourselves that we don’t need to keep long. We all receive envelopes in the mail. We all acquire paper printed on only one side of the page. So let’s scribble our notes and shopping lists on the back.
When I published a book several years ago, I prepared the index by writing one and only one term and page number on a 3×5 card. After I sorted them and submitted the index to the publisher, I had thousands of barely used index cards.
They make ideal shopping lists. I used to write the lists one item under another. I discovered that if I write from left to right, I can put multiple items on a line. Then I can reuse the same card for two or three weeks until it fills up.
Recycle: You recognize that I have used the “three Rs” of sustainability, and that I have used them in the same order you always hear them. That would be the order of importance.
After you have reduced and reused, recycle everything else you can. You don’t use any less paper when you recycle, but at least you keep it out of the landfill.
Do we really use 65 billion sheets of paper every day in this country? That’s a lot of paper. Half that much is a lot of paper. The infographic, created by Esker, will dramatize just how much it amounts to.