10 Ways to Kick the Paper Habit

10 Ways to Kick the Paper Habit

Tiffany Finley
Mar 15, 2011

Cleaning your home is just as much about what you don't use as it is about what you do use. Although paper can be beautiful and downright useful, it doesn't necessarily need to be plentiful in our homes. Here are 10 paper products that you may be able to reduce, or even kick out of your home.

Here are 10 ideas to reduce paper use, and save some money too!

  1. Junk Mail: Stop it before it arrives! Landis made a list of services that you pay a small fee to in order to stop your junk mail from arriving in the first place. According to the EPA, back in 2000, 5.2 million tons of junk mail were shipped, with only 0.98 million tons, or 19%, recycled, leaving 4.2 million tons sent to the garbage. You can imagine that this number has grown, with only some of the efforts being diverted to email spam. Although recycling is an important step once it has arrived, feel free to call certain companies that mail you offers consistently and request to be taken off of their list. This will save you mail sorting time, and reduce our paper use.
  2. Magazines and Newspapers: Both of these are highly recyclable, and reusable in the meantime as Art! The debate of newspapers versus online papers continues, so choose which is best for your personal lifestyle and be sure to recycle or redecorate with the rest. Framed magazine pictures can also add to your home decor!
  3. Virgin Printing Paper: First, consider whether you need to print that article, coupon, or email. If the answer is still yes, then there are several sustainable paper options out there. Why not invest an extra $1 for something ethically harvested? From Forest Stewardship Council to wheat and hemp paper, their are many options to choose from. Not to mention the most sustainable of all, which are the back sides of pre-printed paper.
  4. Greeting Cards & Wrapping Paper: You can make your own greeting cards from recycled paper and odds and ends, and use cloth, reusable gift bags, and newspaper for the wrapping paper. Taking apart old cards to create new ones, using VHS tapes as ribbon, and newspaper stamped with something festive can create beautiful and unique wrap jobs.
  5. Paper Napkins and Towels: Some people can't imagine making do without paper towels and napkins, yet more and more people are adjusting to paper towel-less lives. Old ripped up clothes and rags are kicking paper products out of kitchens everywhere. If it is already stained, but not necessarily dirty, why not use it to clean up the BBQ sauce? If you are particularly artistic, check out the design competition hosted by PeopleTowels, who make little towels to keep in your purse so you never need to use paper towels on the go.
  6. Coffee Filters: There are two easy ways to kick the chlorine-bleached paper filters out of your kitchen. A French Press or hemp coffee filters. One has a built in press that takes pre-grinded beans and the other is washable and typically comes in packs of two.
  7. Paper plates: Now if you have a big family, like I do, paper plates seem to weasel their way into family gatherings in the name of convenience (and lack of a dishwasher). Yet parties that request that you bring your own mess kit (your own plates and cups) seem to be growing, and make planning larger events and their clean-up much easier. No more chasing stray paper plates around the park or fishing them out of the water. It also helps accommodate people with children, food allergies, and anyone concerned with portion control. Win-win. But if paper plates keep popping up, transitioning toward non-chlorine bleached, post-consumer waste plates is a great intermediate step.
  8. Toilet Paper: Ah yes, the great Toilet Paper debate. Do we need it? Do we need to just use less of it? Or do we just need to use less 'fancy' TP? For those in the first camp, there are cloth options to toilet paper out there. If you have ever been on trail where you pack out whatever waste you create...these can help lighten your load and get you accustomed quickly to the idea. Using less is always a good idea if you decide TP is the way to go, and the sustainably harvested stuff isn't much of a price jump. Look for non-chlorine bleached, post-consumer waste TP from companies like Seventh Generation.
  9. Paper Reminders: The infamous Post-It note. Being from Minnesota, home to 3M and the Post-It note, I can't seem to remember a time before its existence. Post-Its can be quickly replaced with notes on smart phones, chalkboards in the kitchen, or dry erase boards in the office. For the notes that still don't have a place, tear up that pesky junkmail into small pieces and viola! Post it, without the sticky part (just add tape).
  10. Paper Bags: Some would argue that paper shopping bags are old news, and switching to canvas bags, or expandable nylon bags are the way to go. Keeping a foldable bag in your purse can save you from drowning in disposable bags and reduce your paper and plastic waste. In many countries and now cities, there is a charge for paper and plastic bags to help wean shoppers off of disposable bags. In San Francisco, plastic "convenience" bags have been banned altogether. Making us wonder, did we need them in the first place?

So which habits are you, or have you already, kicked to the curb? Are there any you just can't give up?

(Image: Technabob)

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