Go Paperless: 10 Zero Waste Hacks to Save Paper (and Trees!)

In 2018, people in the US threw away 18.35 million tons of paper and paperboard. Paper products made up about 12 percent of landfill waste (EPA). But it doesn’t have to be this way… adopt these zero waste hacks to go paperless and reduce your impact!

1) Reuse whatever paper you already have

First things first, reuse before recycling! Those junk mail envelopes you’re planning to toss? Use them for your grocery list. Other paper items you can reuse are shipping mailers and cardboard boxes, paper bags, and documents with printing errors. Make sure you’ve used them until they’re no longer functional before recycling them!
reusing junk mail

2) Opt-out & Go paperless

Avoid waste in the first place by going paperless! Set all your bills to email notifications and refuse paper receipts at the store by opting for an email receipt. If you tend to print documents for work, can you reduce the amount of printed material by viewing them on an electronic device? Add a disclaimer to your documents and email encouraging people to consider the environment before automatically printing.

3) Properly recycle paper products

recycling bin
So you’ve reused what paper products you have and gone paperless where you can - the next step is properly recycling! Check with your local recycling center to find out what materials they accept and their collection process. Always be mindful of what you put in your recycling bin to avoid contamination! No food residue or liquid should be left in or on any of your recycling, but especially paper products. Absolutely no greasy cardboard!

4) Reusable towels/napkins/hankies/rags

If every household in the U.S. used just one less roll of paper towels, that reduction would save 544,000 trees each year. Avoid paper towel products altogether by bringing your own reusable towels, napkins, and rags with you everywhere! The same goes for a reusable hanky to replace single-use tissues. You can DIY reusables out of scrap fabric, old towels, old t-shirts, old sheets, etc. If ordering food-to-go, make sure to tell the restaurant you don’t need napkins.

5) Reusable coffee filter or brewing method with no filter paper

French Press coffee
Avoid paper coffee filters by using a reusable filter! You can find reusable coffee filters made out of fabric or metal and there are even options for k-cup brewing systems. The best options are brewing methods that don’t require additional filters like a Moka Pot or French Press.

6) Reusable tote bags

The most common reusable item is the tote bag. There are so many tote bags to choose from, but our favorites are those you make by upcycling old materials or you find secondhand from friends or the thrift store.

7) Reusable bulk bags

reusable bulk bag
When you head to the bulk section of your grocery store or co-op, bring your own bags! Part of the benefit of refill stations is avoiding single-use packaging. You can use bulk bags for your coffee, pasta, snacks, nuts, granola - basically anything that’s not liquid!

The next few tips don’t exactly save paper, but they do help forests!

8) Searching using Ecosia

Do a lot of online searching? Switch your search engine to Ecosia and plant trees! They plant a tree for every 45 searches or so. Use your curiosity to restore forests...

9) Support companies that support the environment

As a member of 1% for the Planet, we’ve committed to donating 1% of our revenue to sustainability-focused non-profits. We plant thousands of trees per year and are helping to reforest large swaths of land in Central America that are critical for the long-term survival of the Monarch butterfly through our partnership with La Cruz Habitat Protection Program.

10) Quality over quantity

When shopping for products made from trees, make sure to pick items of quality to avoid consistently having to purchase them. All of our wood furniture and home decor is sustainably harvested in the USA and guaranteed to last a lifetime, which means our products shouldn’t end up in a landfill anytime soon.

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Alexandra Thompson

Alexandra Thompson is a Zero Waste & Recycling Expert and the Sustainability Programming Manager for Waste Free Earth. Waste Free Earth is on a mission to reinvent how society produces and consumes waste through education, engagement, and empowerment. They are changing the current business culture to one that prioritizes zero waste systems over single-use landfill items.

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