Trees are vital to our survival, it is said that the Earth “breathes” through the trees. There is a lot of truth in this as trees are nature’s oxygen factory-collecting the carbon dioxide and turning it into oxygen.
However, our need for paper is depleting this natural resource faster than we can replace it. Deforestation is a serious issue that includes social and environmental complexities that reach beyond the production of paper products.
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in 2013, paper accounted for approximately 27% of trash in our landfills. This is good, right.. since paper is biodegradable? Paper IS biodegradable, under the correct conditions. However, in a landfill, paper degrades at a much slower pace and in turn releases methane gas. In addition to recycling and reusing paper items it is also important to make an effort to reduce the amount of paper products being used.
Here are some tips to reduce paper consumption in your own home:
1. Make digital lists. Ditch the grocery store list scribbled on a piece of paper….use your device or even a dry erase board, if a device is not possible.
2. Use cloth napkins. These can be purchased or handmade.
3. Handkerchiefs, store bought or handmade. Save fabric scraps and cut them to size. Re-purpose flannel sheets (or any similar fabric) into handkerchiefs.
4. Instead of paper towels, use cleaning rags.
5. For women, there are many alternatives to using paper sanitary products. Menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads are environmentally friendly and are quite cost effective.
6. Go paperless– opt in to make payments online and to receive monthly statements online as well. Many organizations, including banks and utilities, offer the option to go paperless.
7. Use cash or debit cards, forget the antiquated checkbook.
8. Recycle your phone books and any paper products that are accepted at your local recycling facilities.
9. Contact the catalog companies that keep sending catalogs from every online store you have purchased from. Ask to be removed from their mailing list.
10. Send e-cards instead of paper cards.
11. Opt for online versions of newspapers and magazines.
12. Instead of wrapping paper, use gift bags. Gift bags and tissue paper can be reused many times. Even better, make your own fabric gift bags!
13. Print emails only when necessary and try to use both sides of the paper when printing from your computer.
14. Re-purpose paper items as often as possible.
15. When making in-store purchases- say no to paper AND plastic…..bring your own shopping bags.
16. If given the option, have your shopping receipt emailed to you, instead of accepting the printed one. At the gas pump and ATM machine, choose to not have the receipt printed.
When purchasing paper products, look for unbleached or non-chlorine bleached items. The process of paper bleaching releases dioxin into the environment. Dioxin is a chemical that is highly toxic, health damaging and potentially carcinogenic. Purchase paper products that are made with 100% post consumer recycled paper. There are also many alternative paper products available now, such as printer paper made with sugar cane and bamboo fibers.
A few simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference. By implementing some of these ideas, not only will you save money, you will also notice a reduction in the amount of paper items you send to the landfill.
Now take a deep breath and thank a tree-maybe even go hug one. 🙂
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