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Unnecessary Printing: Reducing Your Office's Paper Usage

by Jocelyn Broyles (bio)

Published 10/4/11


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We’ve all seen that note below the signature in an email that says, “Please consider the environment before printing this email”. We’ve all also probably wondered, “Who prints emails anyway?” The answer isn’t concrete – different businesses and different employees print email for different reasons. In legal offices, all emails are printed and filed, for, well, legal reasons. In a regular office, an email might be printed to be handed out in a meeting or posted in the breakroom.

Whatever the motivation behind printing, in just one year the average office employee uses 10,000 sheets of paper [1] and consumes a total of 760 pounds (that’s a little over two pounds per day) of paper products in their daily life. [2]

First off, if you must print emails, reports, and other office documents use recycled paper. However, the best way to save the environment is reducing your printing. The World Wildlife Fun suggest several easy ways to help reduce your consumption of paper at the office, and that of your co-workers:

  • Track the printing footprint of each person in your office. Most people are utterly surprised at the amount they print when they start keeping track.
  • Host a company-wide contest to see who can save the most. Offer a prize to the winner (s): Dinner for two; movie tickets; game tickets or a gift card.
  • Post in-house reminders by the copy machine or at individual workstations.
  • Create a checklist for those departments which order informational materials and include questions detailing who truly needs hard paper copies of each document. For a complete list of questions see the report from World Wildlife Fund.
  • If you must print, print double sided.
  • If you go to a meeting, take your computer instead of paper and pen. Encourage coworkers to do the same and discourage printing out material to be handed out to everyone.
  • Suggest group material be presented and viewed on a projector screen. Computers can be hooked up to project images this way. [3]

Microsoft also has some great suggestions for reducing your print quantity:

  • Change computer settings to print more words per page (set you margins smaller) and set your font to Times New Roman or Arial. They use significantly less space than other fonts.
  • Use your fax effectively by sending a fax or word document without printing first. Simply use the menus in Word > Choose File, then Send to, then Fax recipient, and then follow the instructions. This allows faxes to be sent from computers without the need to print first. It also allows faxes to be received in an email rather than printed copy format. Help on this should be available from your IT department or from a Microsoft tutorial.
  • When sending a paper fax, eliminate cover sheets and use fax stick-on labels instead.
  • Program your fax to eliminate confirmation sheets.
Save Office Energy
Be Conscious of Office Paper Usage

The amount of paper an office can save by less printing is staggering.

Now that you’re not printing out as much material, what about the eye strain of reading on a computer monitor? Here are some tips to make your computer screen easier on your eyes:

  • Enlarge your text.
  • Customize your display – high contrast schemes are easier to read.
  • Increase the size of your icons.
  • Use the magnifier – for your entire screen or just for the area around your pointer.
  • Enlarge your mouse pointer.
  • Improve your screen resolution. [4]

For details, see the complete article by Microsoft on how to adjust the above-mentioned tips. Also suggested by the computer giant, is Narrator, a program that reads aloud what is on your computer screen.

If you like the idea of magnifying your screen, DisabledWorld.com offers a comprehensive list of several after-market magnifiers and gives a detailed description of their pros and cons.

On top of all of this, remember that computers were built to help us! Christina Gregiore, in an article for Suite101.com details how to let the computer do some of your work for you by scanning a document for the text relevant to your project. This saves your eyes and saves you time, especially when reading long texts where only part of the information is critical to you or your department.

These tips and ideas are easy to implement and should get your office started on reducing its paper usage immediately. Even just using one less piece of paper a day makes a huge difference – and everyone can do that.

If you are interested in featuring your paper-reducing successes on World Wildlife Fund’s website, write to them at: savepaper@wwfdcp.org with a description of what you did and how much you saved.

[1] EPA.gov

[2] GreenAnswers.com

[3] WorldWildlife.org

[4] Microsoft