Total Recall: Reuse to Reduce

We’re living in an increasingly digital world, and it’s becoming easier every day to cut down on your personal paper usage. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop at electronic bank statements and canvas grocery bags (you’re doing that, right?). It’s time to step it up to the next level of paper recycling and really dive into pragmatic sustainability with five easy ways to reduce paper waste by reusing it.

Recycle paper at least twice:  It’s a great idea to recycle everything from   unwanted receipts to less than perfect resumes, but why just toss them right into the recycling bin? You can use them at least once more before taking that step—who needs notepads when you have the back of a receipt? Why print out something that’s just for you on brand new paper? Recycle that paper once or twice before you officially give it up to the folks in waste management.

Forgo the packaged stuff:  Not only is unpackaged food fresher and therefore healthier, it actually takes less of a toll on the planet. So instead of heading towards the aisles filled with boxed, wrapped products, pick out some fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and anything else that doesn’t come fancily packaged in tree-based materials. Don’t forget to byob (bring your own bag.)

Rags over paper towels:  I used to be an avid paper towel user. Spilled milk? Paper towel. Freshly fried bacon? Paper towel. Nothing happened at all? Paper towel. Leave the paper towels for public restrooms – at home, you can have an army of dish rags at your disposal. Keep some designated for specific uses if you want, but all you have to do is wash them – you’ll save money by just buying a dozen of those every 10 years instead of purchasing paper towel rolls every fortnight.

Got kids? Ditch diapers:  Not all diapers; just the disposable type. Cloth diapers are the wave of the future…via the past. They may seem antiquated, but they’re significantly cheaper than traditional diapers, which you’d be buying for years as the parent of a young child. Cloth diapers save forests worth of trees and grandma will be proud of you for using such a traditional waste disposal method.

Wrap gifts in newspaper:  Yes, it’s fun to make presents look aesthetically pleasing, but why not also make them informative and educational? Instead of buying paper covered in snowflakes, reuse paper covered in presidential debate opinions. Size permitting, you could use beautifully photographed editorials out of magazines. People will see you’re resourceful, environmentally-minded, and also well-read. Of course, if you’re already getting your news from electronic sources, you could always wrap gifts in old tax statements.

These certainly are not the most extreme things you can do to cut down on paper usage (making your own chewing gum to avoid buying it packaged falls under that category). However, if you’re looking to go beyond the initial steps to reduce your paper consumption, try these five tricks before you raise the stakes to a life without toilet paper.

Image courtesy of bplanet through


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