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10 Ways to be kinder to paper

One of the things I haven't posted a lot of on the blog (well actually never) is lists. Everybody, including me, loves lists so I thought maybe I should get down to producing some and what bettter way to get the ball rolling than a list of paper reducing/eliminating ideas. To avoid information overload I'm only presenting 10 ideas for the time being but I hope the 10 I've presented are useful and somewhat thought-provoking. I intend to follow up this list in the near future with a part deux. Meanwhile enjoy the ideas I've posted and if you have any of your own then please don't be afraid to share them.

1. Buy a TabletPC - Purchase, borrow or beg (but don’t steal) a TabletPC or perhaps a UMPC (although I'm still not fully convinced of their role as a primary computer). Yes I know it’s an expensive outlay if you can’t borrow or beg one, but if you’re committed to turning paperless then it really is a necessary expense. Before my TabletPC came along I was not able to fully implement a paperless lifestyle as handwriting functionality and the ability to read and annotate electronic books in a similar manner to physcial books were essential to my paperless objectives, Now that I DO own a TabletPC and perform those functions I can operate 100% paperlessly at university or home 100% of the time.Simple as! If your budget doesn’t stretch to a computer of this size then at least consider an inexpensive PDA. PDA’s are worth their weight in gold when it comes to operating paperlessly. Occupying about the same physical amount of space as a notebook, a PDA can do anything and almost everything better than its paper counterpart. The samller screen size is a hinderance but maybe a UMPC nicely fills the gap between TabletPC and PDA (and it will fill the gap even more 'nicely' when the price drops)

2. Get off mailing lists NOW!! - Reduce your junk mail drastically by getting your name taken off the DMA’s mailing lists. You can do this by contacting the Mailing Preference Service (MPS). All members of the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) i.e. the ones who are responsible for sending the majority of junk mail have no authority to send un-solicited mail to addresses not on their lists. So it's a really good idea to get yourself off those lists. I’ve done this and my junk mail has reduced dramatically so from my experience it works. You can complete the process fully online in the UK by going >>HERE<<. In the US although you can complete the full process of ‘opting out’ online it carries a $5 charge. There is a FREE option but it will require the cost of postage and the need to print out the form (boo!). Details on all this for US readers can be found >>HERE<<

Of course the problem still exists with other forms of junk mail coming through your door. You may receive brochures and offer mailings etc. from companies you have dealt with in the past. You will need to contact these companies directly and request that you are removed from their mailing lists. There are also leaflet and flyer drops to contend with. I live in a long straight street that seems to be a magnet for leaflet drops. I’ve placed a friendly but firm notice above my letterbox kindly asking people not to drop any leaflets etc. through my door and for the most part it seems to be working..fingers crossed.

3. Gets kids to do their art electronically - If you have children, small brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces etc. and trust them with your hi-tech piece of gadgetry why not encourage them to do their art on a TabletPC or a computer with an attached  graphics tablet. There are some great art packages out there from the hugely expensive Adobe Photoshop through to more reasonably priced art packages such as Sketchbook PRO and the ridiculously underpriced ArtRage 2 (and if that price isn't ridiculously low enough there’s even a FREE cutdown version of ArtRage 2) 

Aside from saving on huge amounts of paper, when your kids migrate over to computer based art, you’ll also be saving yourself quite a bit of cash which would otherwise be spent on art materials. This is a good fringe benefit which you can hopefully turn to your favour and use towards eventually buying the kids their own electronic art studio. I would stress though not to make your kids completely shy away from using paper for their art. Paper is an essential medium for nurturing the creativity of many artists. Therefore a reduction in paper rather than elimination is preferable.

4. Carry a camera - Carry a small camera around with you or make use of the inbuilt camera on your cell phone or PDA. Aside from taking pics of our nearest and dearest cameras also provide a great way to quickly record information that needs to be retained. For instance if you find a book you like the look of in a bookshop and want to make a note of it for future reference (hopefully so you can find a 2nd hand copy online. See (6) :o) )then a quick snapshot of the cover (and/or isbn number on the back) gives you an instant record. Also great for taking snapshots of information labels (detailing size dimensions, price etc. ) on furniture or that funny shaped plumbing part you need from the plumb store (no more puzzled looks from the guy at the plumbing supplies while your running through your repetoire of descriptive hand gestures :o) )

5. Use online product catalogues - Most major retailers have a full regularly updated range of their products online. There is therefore little to no need in requesting, or to continue receiving, a physical paper catalogue from the retailer especially when you buy directly through the company's online store. If you still get regular postal mailings of paper catalogues then unsubscribe from them IMMEDIATELY (usually through a simply email to the company) and start getting akin to using the online catalogues.

6. Buy your books second hand - Buy all or most of your books 2nd hand from 2nd hand bookshops on the high street or online at places such as Abebooks (abebooks.co.uk in Britain and abebooks.com in the US] or Amazon market sellers  (the 'new or used' link to the right of the book page your viewing on Amazon) . Not only will you be showing kindness to paper by not buying a new copy you’ll save yourself a small fortune.

While I’m also on the subject of 2nd hand books another great idea is to sign yourself up at BookCrossing. This website is genius as it promotes a creative  exchange of 2nd hand books. Once you finish reading a book you place it in a protective wrapper with a note that the book is free for anyone who finds it along with a BookCrossing serial (BCID). You then 'release' the book anywhere you want with the hope that whoever finds the book, aside from reading it, logs the find at the website so the 'releaser' knows who picked the book up. It's a great idea and potentially a great way to get rid of all your old books.

7. Send all your occassion cards electronically - I’ve spoken about this before but I always get greater satisfaction in sending E-Cards, rather than paper based cards to people on special occasions. That process has recently been made all the better since I stumbled across the ad-free ‘no strings’ ecard website BlueGreenPlanet. There are also websites who deal with electronic party invitations (dubbed e-vites). Although I’ve never sent any e-vites I went looking for examples and Sendomatic  seems one of the better ones. The only downside of using Sendomatic is that sending anything over 4 e-vites for an occassion will incur a charge but considering that 5-100 e-vites costs only $12.95 (at the time of writing) this isn’t a big expenditure especially when you consider how much it would cost to send out 100 paper invites including postage (shame if you only want to send 5 though isn't it?)

8. USE paper recycling facilities - Schools, universities businesses etc. are all becoming more aware of the need to recycle paper. My local council provides a blue bin for paper which is emptied once per month. It’s a godsend but I see many people where I live not using the blue bins to their full potential and it makes me go aarrgghh!! :o). So if you have the luxury of a recycle bin or a recycle centre on your doorstep then please use them fully. And if your  university, college or workplace doesn’t advocate paper recycling then maybe now is the time to exert a little pressure on them to jump on the recycling bandwagon (who knows you may well win them or yourself a Paperless Pat on the Back)

9. When you got to use it then use recycled - When you absolutely have no other choice but to use paper always be responsible by using 100% recycled options. A good example of a product, that I’ll not dwell on for too long, is toilet tissue. In the UK Tesco’s Extra Value toilet tissue (believe it or not their cheapest) is made from 100% recycled paper material (I only hope because it’s their cheapest that the recycled material source isn’t other toilet tissue :o) ). Seriously though it’s a surprisingly good product given it’s low price.

10. Go paperless with your bills - Well aware of the savings that can be made and the 'brownie points' that can be scored from increasingly environmentally aware customers, banks, utility services and various other companies are falling over themselves to get customers to opt out of receiving paper bills. Tracy at StudentTabletPC recently blogged about the bank's money saving motivations for offering paperless bills and although she's somewhat cynical in her suspicions she may well be right. However regardless of what the bank's motivations are I say take advantage of the fact that they are offering the paperless option and GO FOR IT!. I've turned paperless with many of my bills now and love not having a pile of scary statements on my doormat in the morning. Going paperless with bills DOES require you to be a bit more forward thinking and ensure that you schedule regular checks of your online statements but you usually always receive an email reminder when your next statement/bill has been prepared and/or is ready for viewing so there should be no problem with forgetting.


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Great tips!

Upon reading your post I have signed for the UK Mailing Preference Service and whilst I was at it also for the UK Telephone Preference Service (no relevance to your paperless campaign, but time is money!).

I shall be on the look for the Tesco Toilet rolls ... until you develop a paperless solution ;^)

Hi Pascal,
Glad I could be of some help. As for the Toilet tissue I think it'll be a long time until any of us go paperless on that one :o)

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