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April 29, 2021 — 21:05 PM
We hear a lot about cutting back on plastic and reducing our food waste—but what about our paper footprint? As Laurie David and Heather Reisman write in their new book Imagine It! A Handbook for a Happier Planet, while paper products are ubiquitous in this day and age, there are some little tricks that can help you avoid unnecessary paper waste and save a few trees in the process. Here are some to get you started.
Reducing day-to-day paper use:
- Consider NRDC’s Toilet Paper Sustainability Scorecard when you buy toilet tissue. This scorecard looks at factors including the product’s percentage of post-consumer recycled content, whether the bleach used in manufacturing is toxic, and if the tissue is made from virgin forest fiber.
- Use a reusable mug rather than daily disposable paper coffee cups.
- Replace paper towels with a basket or container of small cloth towels that you keep beside any sink or where your paper towels would normally be. (HMR: I was definitely a paper towel addict until I was inspired by an image I saw of towels in a basket in what looked to be a busy kitchen. Since the day I implemented this new habit at home, I have never looked back. I don’t miss the paper at all. I wash the towels in cold water and feel great about it all.)
- Replace parchment paper used in baking with silicone baking mats.
- Consider e-vites rather than physical cards for invitations.
- Save old T-shirts for wiping down windows and cleaning the car.
- Use re-giftable wraps, leftover fabric, old scarves, or the pages of a magazine instead of new gift wrap.
- Fall in love with cloth napkins. It’s worth noting that cloth napkins end up being far less expensive than the constant replacement of paper ones. And the bonus is that they look great on your table. If possible, try to find organic cotton or linen, or natural fibers like bamboo. (Note: It is so not necessary to iron cloth napkins. Even with a few wrinkles, they will look charming on the table.)
- When eliminating paper isn’t possible or desirable, look for post-consumer recycled material or sustainable alternative fibers, such as wheat straw or sustainable bamboo. Today paper is even being made with recycled cotton.
Be paper smart at the office (home or work).
Use post-consumer recycled paper in your printer and print double-sided when possible. (While we’re on the topic of printing: Consider recycling your toner cartridges by dropping them off at a local supply store. If you can, inspire the same action at your office.)
- If you are going to a coffee shop, bring a reusable mug. Like water bottles, there are many great designs on the market. Paper coffee cups are often harder to recycle because of their plastic coating and residual liquid. Just be careful to pick a mug or container meant for hot liquid.
- Replace your paper coffee filters with a washable, reusable one.
- Reconsider the coffee pod. These pods are proving difficult to recycle and are piling up in landfills at alarming rates. (As an aside: Look for the fair trade label on your coffee bag. This confirms that the company’s farmers are using environmentally sound practices. It also means the company pays them a fair price and provides fair working conditions.)
Delist yourself from mailings and catalogs.
Take a good look at what you get in your mailbox. Unsubscribe from anything you regularly get sent but don’t use or read, including catalogs and information circulars. You can often do this online or with a simple phone call. Our experience suggests this is a very satisfying activity.
This excerpt was co-written by Heather Reisman.
Adapted from an excerpt of Imagine It! A Handbook for a Healthier Planet by Laurie David and Heather Reisman (2021), with permission from the publisher.