By Kristin Boza
Eliminating or reducing our consumption of paper is one way to increase efficiency in our lives and leave a smaller carbon footprint on our planet. Morgan Ciani, operating partner at Cultivate Advisors, a business advising firm dedicated to making the world a better place through entrepreneurship, often counsels her clients on ways to manage their use of paper.
“There are many benefits to productivity when businesses and individuals take a paperless approach to their daily lives,” Ciani said. “Think about the last time you were in a meeting and someone doesn’t have the information [they] need to discuss because they don’t have it printed out. Not only is time wasted, but it’s also costly to rely so much on paper.”
Paper and paperboard make up roughly 26% of solid waste in landfills, and the production of paper contributes to air and water pollution. The industry also contributes to deforestation, as trees are a main source of paper.
“Going digital in any aspect of your life — whether it’s mail at your house or eliminating paper in an office setting by shifting to email and cloud usage — will eliminate massive amounts of material, energy, pollution, and cost,” Ciani said. “If everything was on a cloud or SaaS platform, we could easily find necessary documents with a simple keyword search when we’re at work or in a meeting. This has an added benefit of making work more collaborative.”
At home, families can reduce paper usage by using cloth napkins and eliminating paper plates and other one-use items.
Going paper-free is a part of a long-term strategy. It’s not going to be achieved in a short period of time; it’s just too overwhelming.
“Strategize how you will transition your workplace and home away from paper. You may never be completely paper-free, but you can find many ways to use less of it,” Ciani said. “It’s going to take time, a conscious effort, and getting everyone affected in alignment. But remember that one change will make a pretty big impact over time.”
One of Ciani’s clients is a family-owned, decades-old business that utilizes state-of-the-art technology but still used paper invoicing systems. “Over a period of six months, we were able to eliminate paper and greatly increase their efficiency. By making this switch, they were able to grow their revenue streams.”
Tips to Go Paper-Free
Use scanning apps to return important forms to school, doctor’s offices, and employers.
Leverage a project management system, like Slack, so all employees have access to what they need at any given time.
Use social media and email to communicate rather than printed forms, meeting agendas, and to do lists.
If signatures are needed, use the DocuSign program to deliver a signature electronically.
“A small investment in these apps and platforms each month is a huge savings over purchasing printers, machine maintenance, ink, toner, paper, and all other physical things needed to use paper at work,” Ciani said.