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From Paper to Digital — Helping the Earth Breathe Easier

Desk with coffee cup and phone.

Biology 101 tells us that trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide while at the same time producing that element that we know as oxygen. Since trees are the number one source of paper, the increasing use of paper directly reduces our greenery, creating the greenhouse effect, and in turn, contributing to climate change. While this may not have a current direct impact on most of us, these small actions, multiplied globally, will add up over time.

If people were more conscious of their use of paper products and the impact it has on climate change, they might consider lessening their environmental impact. They would realize there are other options they could choose from to decrease their paper product consumption. From paperless billing to emailed receipts, technological advancements continue to provide more and more options that help reduce our use of paper, leading to a lesser carbon footprint.

Technology has made significant contributions to the reduction of the use of paper with its most famous invention - EMAIL! Aside from the telephone, the second biggest social connector was mail. From personal to business correspondence, holiday cards, etc., everyone mailed paper. Email exponentially diminished the use of paper. People no longer had to buy large quantities of envelopes and postage, and wait for their loved ones (or their credit card company) to receive their letter.

The creation of email also had a profound impact on traditional marketing. Technology paved the way to what is now known as the digital marketing campaign. Paper catalogs are no longer the way to go. Instead, marketers recommend web-to-lead forms, direct URLs, and google analytics.

Businesses also get great benefits from reducing their paper usage. Today there are online software and apps that provide companies the opportunity to streamline and become more efficient. These technologies help to reduce expenditures related to paper usage (e.g., paper, ink cartridges, envelopes, etc.). For example, warehouse managers can use an iPad to update inventory, instantly analyze product demand, purchase necessary parts, and ship out supplies when and where they are needed. Utilizing a tablet device reduces time-to-market, builds a leaner block-chain, and enables companies to implement a just-in-time system to serve their customers better. By drastically reducing, or even eliminating, paper-related office supplies businesses can recover costs useable on other business investments.

So, what are some practical reasons why you should go paperless now?

More secure - Believe it or not, the 9.9 million Americans that have experienced identity theft were because they had their mail stolen from their mailbox or garbage. Paperless billing not only reduces the chances of theft, but it also increases the chances that you won't lose or misplace your bill. Vendors now store this sensitive information for their customers, allowing them 24-hour access from anywhere in the world.

Saving money - Some businesses charge their customers a surcharge for mailing out their bills. Additionally, Americans spend approximately $37 to $48 per year on materials necessary to "snail mail" their payments (e.g., envelopes, postage, paper, etc.). Save those benjamins for a new pair of shoes, or to donate to your favorite charity.

Saving time - We are all familiar with the adage "Time is money." The numerous steps that it takes to pay your bills using the "old method" is very time-consuming. Opening envelopes to organizing your bills, to writing out checks, filling out the payment receipt, and taking your bills to the post office. With modern technology, you can set reminders, budget, and pre-schedule electronic payment of your bills in less time than it took you to read this article.

Never lose a receipt - There is an increasing number of vendors that provide customers the opportunity to receive their receipt via email. Some of these large purchases do come with a warranty or a specific return policy, but only if you can find that receipt. It is as easy as creating a personal electronic folder for receipts on any of your digital devices or doing a simple search in your email. And for businesses that offer this option, they have another advantage - increasing the positive customer service experience. Companies can retrieve customer receipts, order details, and other electronic documents, decreasing customer frustration when they can't find their receipts.

"Paper or Plastic" - Most plastic bags are not biodegradable and have a terrible impact on the planet. Using paper bags isn’t a better choice for the environment. Even though they are biodegradable, it takes more resources to make, and even a lot more energy to recycle. Purchasing reusable grocery and produce bags is one way to help the environment. They have a longer life cycle and are far more eco-friendly. Additionally, some grocers provide rebates for bringing your own.

Technology has made it possible for everyone to hold a computer in the palm of their hand. With tablets or any digital device, we can easily replace the use of printed paper. We can also read a whole library of books while on vacation, with just an iPad. There are millions of people around the globe using devices. They are sending emails, digitally signing legal documents without a pen, and writing their memoirs without ever using a printing press.

Below are a few simple ideas on how to reduce your paper footprint.

  • Sign up for e-billing and bank statements. These documents can be retrieved or viewed online easily.
  • Opt not to have the paper receipt when you go to the grocery store. Most stores have reward programs that will not only help with your family budget but will provide the option of storing your receipts and purchase history.
  • Create an Intuit Mint account or use similar financial software; this will help track your expenditures and keep you on budget.
  • Take notes digitally. It makes it easier to share your notes with others and can provide a search option if you use a tool like Evernote. You can even annotate PDFs on your digital devices.
  • Use an app like PaperKarma to reduce the flow of postal junk mail, available on the App Store and Google Play.
  • Adjust your computer or tablet screens to display text comfortably, making documents more readable.
  • Reuse already printed paper before throwing it out as much as you can for notes.