The message they can’t delete

Post_itTrue confession time: I love paper.

I love the way it looks, the way it feels, the cool artistic effects that talented designers can achieve with rough, organic textures or slick, shiny finishes.

But what I love most about paper is its sticking power. I’m not talking about the glue on the back of a post-it note, but the physical presence that only paper can give to your message. And as any printer will tell you these days, there’s a lot more room in your snail-mail box than there used to be.

Say what you will about email, websites, blogs, and social networks: paper remains the only communication medium that can’t be vaporized instantly with the click of a button. Even if you take it directly to the recycling bin (you are recycling, right?), there’s still a good chance that you’ll LOOK at it. In that moment, I have a golden opportunity to communicate with you.

So what’s a business to do if it values sustainability? Here’s a few tips to get the most out of paper and still minimize your impact:

  • Go paperless whenever you can, especially for administrative stuff like invoicing, memos, and communication with clients.
  • Don’t print anything you don’t have to. When you do, be sure to recycle it when you’re done.
  • Reduce the default margins in Microsoft Word to a minimum. Do you really need an inch and a half of white space on every sheet? This sounds like a little thing, but I find that it cuts the number of pages in just about every document I prepare. It also helps my clients use less paper without even knowing it!
  • Watch out for invisible lines at the end of documents too. It’s amazing how often these will add an extra page at the end that no one notices until an extra sheet gets wasted.
  • If you must print, use every feature your printer offers to save paper. I have a default setting that prints double-sided with two pages on each side, cutting my paper use by up to 75%.
  • Master the commenting features in Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, and other applications you use so you can edit documents without printing them.
  • buy paper from companies committed to sustainability, and know the impact of what you’re buying. For example, responsibly-produced virgin paper is sometimes a more sustainable option because of the waste generated by recycling. (I’m not telling not to use recycled paper…just know the pros and cons of the products you’re using.)
  • Ask your printer about their sustainability practices. Are they certified by the Forestry Council or the Rainforest Alliance? Do they still use alcohol-based inks or other harmful chemicals? If they don’t have a green agenda, find one that does. (Want a really clean printer? Here’s mine. Be sure to tell them I sent you.)

I’m looking for more ways to reduce my paper footprint, but I still haven’t found anything else in my toolbox that can outperform it. Have you? If so, please drop me a line.

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