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Paper cuts


I first became an environmental activist in 7th grade. I completed a homework assignment for Mrs. Dibbs’ science class on the blank side of a printed piece of paper that would have otherwise been thrown away. Mrs. Dibbs praised me for the content of my work, but docked me half a grade for poor presentation. Despite my effort to explain how saving paper helped protect forests, Mrs. Dibbs would not remove the minus in my grade.

We have come a long way since then. People are much more aware of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra. One can see it in the popularity of curbside recycling programs, the growing market for paper made with 100% post-consumer waste, and the wider use of paper recycling bins in office settings.

In the last few months, I have noticed a new series of practices that collectively could save a lot more paper:

  • In the latest step forward in online banking, every business (e.g., phone, utility, insurance, etc.) that used to send me a paper bill now offers a way to receive the bill electronically. I’ve gone paperless with a noticeable drop in the amount of mail that comes in the house. My local bank also allows customers to deposit checks by feeding them directly into ATMs without using envelopes.
  • Catalog Choice is a new nonprofit that allows people (600,000 and counting) to request that merchants stop sending catalogs to them.
  • My daughter’s school replaced its paper-laden sign-up process for school lunches with an electronic system that gets the job done more efficiently.
  • My college alma mater recently informed me that materials for alumni rep elections will now arrive electronically — unless you opt-in for paper.
  • The paper vs. plastic debate at grocery stores has increasingly been resolved by people choosing “neither” and using canvas bags instead. San Francisco has accelerated this shift by banning plastic bags at supermarkets and pharmacies.

Are you seeing these same trends? If you know of other paper-saving opportunities, please post them below. And if you happen to know Mrs. Dibbs (or someone like her), please tell her that Reduce, Reuse, Recycle has gone mainstream.

Photo available under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Daquella manera.

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