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Paper is arguably one of the most important physical invention in human history. (People keep claiming “printing press,” but seriously. That’s like “car” without “wheel.”)
For all its importance, paper is capable of doing some major damage to wetlands, oceans, and forests.
Recycled paper uses 75 percent less water, has no impacts on rivers or wetlands from recurring logging of large forests, and avoids the harvesting of multiple forest types.
The obvious solutions
- Don’t print (as much) We’ve been beating this drum for decades. Use small typeface, don’t waste paper, don’t encourage passing out zillions of copies of stapled PowerPoint slides. But people still need information, so…
- Buy recycled paper Everyone thinks recycled paper is out of budgetary reach. The truth is 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper is estimated at 40% percent more than virgin paper. Seems like a lot. It is, unless you…
Solve incrementally, not drastically
Making the decision to cut 40% of an organization’s paper use or increase budgets for paper by 40% probably won’t work. Instead, make it a change management effort.
Employees, department heads, and company management all need to understand the effort, be given clear direction, milestones, and goals, and feel that they are making a difference.
Here’s a sample of how you can manage the transition to using less paper:
- Ensure employees fully understand why you’re focusing on paper (Save the forests! Save the ocean!)
- Ensure employees understand how much paper they’ve used in the last measurable period (A mini-paper audit, perhaps?)
- Give department managers a monthly “paper budget” and not an all-access pass to the copy room (It’s easier to “run out of paper” at the end of each 30 days, and “get by,” than it is to conceptualize what a year’s supply of paper means. Learning to ration over time is more successful.).
- Give each department a paper reduction goal
- Reward and support employee efforts to reduce printing and keep costs down (money saved through paper reduction can be donated to a conservation organization).
The case for reducing paper consumption and changing the purchasing behavior is similar to all change management projects. Communicate, collect data, create an action plan with goals, and measure your success.