Race to Zero Waste: Reducing paper usage to manage waste output

As the Voinovich School Race to Zero Waste continues, we’re focusing on a different topic each week to help faculty, staff and students manage their waste outputs. This week, we’re exploring paper and what can be done to reduce use in a paper-heavy office setting.

In Buildings 19, 21 and 22, we’re working to convert all printers to automatic double-sided printing. In the meantime, we’ve collected tips for you to easily reduce your paper use at The Ridges.

Nine tips to reduce office paper use at the Voinovich School

  1. Use caution when printing from Excel. Choosing “print selection” rather than “print workbook” ensures paper is not wasted on unneeded tabs and columns. Also, choose landscape versus portrait orientation carefully and use the print preview to make sure you’re printing more than just a few rows per page.
  2. Maximize space within Word. Margins and font sizes are easily changed in Word, and a .75-inch margin is becoming more common. If you need to print only one or several pages of a many-paged document, specify which page(s) you want to print in the “pages” section of the print screen.
  3. Move internet text to Word first. If you must print a web page, copying and pasting the text to Word controls exactly what gets printed and eliminates ads, comments, etc.
  4. Screenshot important documents. If keeping an online receipt or other internet-based document, screenshot it and put it in a hard drive folder like you might with a tangible folder. Use the snippet tool or Alt+PrtScn on PCs and Command+Shift+4 on Macs.
  5. Consider scanning instead of copying. If you need to keep a copy of a physical document, scan it to a computer-based folder rather than making a copy and filing it in a paper folder.
  6. Keep personal alternatives to office paper towels and tissues. These may include handkerchiefs, rags and cloth napkins.
  7. See if online bill pay/ordering is an option. When purchasing from a company where they offer the option for e-mail order confirmations or receipts, select it whenever possible.
  8. Reuse paper that only has ink on one side. Handwritten notes can be made on the back of old papers or even utilizing the recycling bin to see what usable paper remains.
  9. Always ask yourself: Do I NEED to print this? It’s the most common way to reduce paper usage, but also the simplest.

When it comes to recycling paper that has finally run its course, remember that napkins, paper towels and tissue paper are compostable, not recyclable. The paper fibers in these products are so large that they are too difficult to break down in the recycling process. Compost buckets are currently located in break rooms and restrooms. However, these paper items are safely recyclable:

• all office paper
• white paper
• colored paper
• newspaper (bags and strings removed) — bags still recyclable
• magazines (all types)
• catalogs (all types)
• phonebooks (all types)
• junk mail (remove clear film from envelopes)
• paperboard
• tissue boxes
• heavyweight folders
• paper towel and toilet paper rolls
• food packaging (unwaxed only)
• shredded paper (in plastic bag to minimize blow-away potential)
• paper milk, juice and soy milk cartons (should be empty and rinsed)
• books: all soft cover, hard covers should be ripped off
• empty paper coffee cups (plastic lids and cardboard sleeve included)

These items can be recycled in the large blue bins beside your desk or the larger covered blue bins in common areas around the Voinovich School.

In next week’s newsletter, we’ll explain how to determine what is recyclable and provide locations for hard-to-recycle items.


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