Did you know that the typical office worker is responsible for using 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year? That’s about one sheet of paper every 12 minutes of the workday. Office paper usage is one of the hidden costs of running a business, but it also represents a substantial cost savings opportunity that can really impact the bottom line — and help preserve the environment as well.

How Businesses Can Cut Back On Paper Usage 1

Here are some suggestions on how to reduce the amount of paper your business uses on a regular basis:

  • Choose recycled paper.

    It all starts by not adding to the problem. Resolve to purchase refill paper that’s only made from 100 percent recycled materials.

  • Make recycling easy.

    Place paper collection bins and containers in plain sight in public areas and near employee workspaces. In addition to encouraging recycling habits, they’ll also serve as reminders to workers to conserve paper in all that they do.

How Businesses Can Cut Back On Paper Usage 2

  • Print on both sides of paper.

    Achieving this is as easy as adjusting the settings on all printers, copiers, and computers in the office. The math is simple, too: Printing on both sides reduces paper usage by up to 50 percent.

  • Designate a location for single-sided sheets.

    For all those documents that only have text on one side, you can set up a printer tray or collection box. Then the non-printed side can be used for drafts, internal communications, or as notepaper.

  • Stock your fax machine with single-sided sheets.

    That way, you don’t waste paper when you receive incoming faxes.

  • Keep up your printers and copiers.

    A significant number of printing errors result from sub-par hardware. So it’s important to perform routine maintenance on your office machines — and fix recurring problems sooner rather than later.

  • Encourage use of the “Print Preview” function.

    Many of the formatting errors from printed pages can be resolved beforehand just by previewing the document to be printed before sending the command to the printer. This saves workers from reprinting documents to correct mistakes.

  • Proofread documents.

    This involves more than clicking on a “Spell Check” button. Quite a few typographical and grammatical errors can only be identified by taking the time to read over the text before printing the document.

  • Alter word processing settings.

    Change all of the document defaults on workplace computers so that the margins are wider and/or the fonts are smaller. The end result will be more text displayed on fewer pages printed.

  • Digitize bulky documents.

    Large documents like employee handbooks, benefits materials, and policy manuals should be stored electronically on an employee intranet site rather than printed out and distributed in hard-copy format.

How Businesses Can Cut Back On Paper Usage 3

  • Adopt electronic signature software.

    Many forms that once required signatures can now be sent electronically with the option of an electronic signature. This fulfills record-keeping needs without printing countless signature sheets.

  • Use the computer for more “paper” tasks.

    It’s not just for email and messaging. Software for electronic note-taking, image drafting, invoicing, billing, and receipt generation can sharply decrease paper usage in a workplace. You can also use this type of software for mobile payment processing.

  • Embrace “green” printing software.

    There are now products like GreenPrint, which can be easily loaded onto a computer network that monitor, measure, reduce, and discourage superfluous paper usage in an office.

  • Cut down on junk mail.

    There are services that allow you to opt out of receiving catalogs and remove your name from mailing lists. Doing so will clean up your mailbox and cut down on unwanted paper usage.

Many businesses lament the exhaustive amounts of paperwork they generate. But instead of complaining about the problem, why not make your business part of the solution? Reducing paper usage helps companies save money while keeping an eye on the environment.

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Chris Martin is a freelance writer about topics ranging from small business management to home improvement to helping the environment.