It's Raining Paper - How Do I Stop the Madness?

Lately it seems that all forms of paper have converged for the solitary purpose of attacking my sanity (or I have just become more cognizant of the fact that paper is all over the place!) The paper mainstream -- catalogues, junk mail, paper bags, and phone books -- continues to find me at the workplace, in the city, and at my comfortable abode. I am not a saint either. As a high school biology teacher, I give one piece of paper out a day to each student. Seventy students receiving one piece of paper for 180 days totals 12,600 pieces of paper in a school year (that’s the number for a conservative teacher too)!

Why does raining paper “perturb me?” Paper processing is consumptive materialistically and energetically.
Nearly 900 million trees are cut down to provide raw materials for American paper and pulp mills. -- headwatersrecycle.com
The average American uses 700 pounds per year, 90% of which is made from virgin tree fiber (Source: It’s Easy Being Green). To make matters worse, pulp and paper mills consistently rank highly within the manufacturing industry in air, water, and land pollution.

This, along with my other recent encounters, has compelled me to think of the many other ways I have saved paper on a daily and yearly basis. Here are some of my findings/tips on how to reduce/reuse all this paper!

Catalogues: Currently 19 billion catalogues are mailed out each year in America. Catalogue Choice is a free service that helps you eliminate unsolicited catalogue mailings. In addition, their purpose is to help companies build more sustainable business practices. Visit catalogchoice.org where you can start searching through the hundreds of listings (or simply call the individual company).

Junk mail: Several steps are in play here. First, you can eliminate your name from the four major credit card companies by calling 1-888-5OPT-OUT. This will last for 5 years.

  • Write the US mail preference service to add your name to the opt-out list. This costs $1, but will eliminate mail from major marketing associations
  • To stop individual senders, such as AOL, Val-Pak, Pennysaver, Publisher’s Clearinghouse, or any other mailer that sends to “Resident”, you must contact those individual companies. Look for their phone numbers or addresses on the labels
  • To have one organization take care of all your junk mail needs, visit 41pounds.org where you pay a $41 fee for them to eliminate junk mail from 20-30 major companies for five years
Phone books: I recently received a new phonebook at home and at work. Typically the producer’s name is listed on the front or inside cover of the phone book. Simply call the producer and insist that they remove your name from their distribution inventory.

‘Reply’ envelopes: The junk/unwanted mail often contains ‘reply’ envelopes. Keep these handy as you can simply ink over any preprinted information and use for your own purpose.

Unnecessary (online) printing: GreenPrint is software that you download to help you eliminate the unwanted pages that print with some documents. Example, you print directions off the internet and the 3rd page comes up with 1 or 2 lines of advertisement. GreenPrint allows you to choose what to print. It also allows you to create PDFs. Visit printgreener.com to download.

Miscellaneous:

  • Tell whatever store, especially at the gas pump, that you don’t need a receipt
  • Shred non-recyclable paper and use it as packing material
  • Rather than buying books, make use of your local library
  • Save newspaper for wrapping presents or for packing material
  • Read magazines/subscriptions online
  • Take scrap paper around office or home and cut into note card sizes, staple together, and use as a notebook (instead of post-it notes)
  • Pay bills online. This eliminates the need for billing statements
  • Obviously decline paper grocery bags (as well as plastic ones), and use cloth ones
  • Shake/air dry your hands instead of using paper towels in restrooms
  • Make double-sided copies!
I hope some of these ideas/tips will help you impact your paper consumption in a positive manner. This list is not all-inclusive so feel free to add your innovative ideas -- I would love to hear about them!

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  • Posted on March 20, 2008. Listed in:

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