Monday Mission: Renew Your Efforts to Conserve Paper

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Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to think like a real tree hugger.

It’s always been important to me to practice the first two Rs: Reduce and Reuse. They’re more important, in my mind, than recycling, and should always come first (and then recycling, of course).

I live in a household where my kids are so used to drawing on scrap paper that three funny things happened this week:

  1. My almost-five-year-old gift didn’t know what I meant when I said, “Scrap paper,” She said, “Oh,  you mean just paper!”
  2. My 8-year-old asked, “So where do you buy paper, anyway? How does it come?”
  3. My kids often make special gifts and thank you pictures on the backs of notes from school and never think anything of it. Somehow I can’t instill in them that there is an appropriate time for new, purchased-from-the-store paper.

The challenge for you today is to figure out if there’s an area in your home that could benefit from a new paper habit, either to reduce or reuse that resource.

Some questions to ponder:

  • When I write a note to self, is it on reused paper or new?
  • Do I print out every recipe I’m interested in, or do I wait until I’ve tried it once and then print it only if it’s a keeper?
  • Must I buy books and magazines to keep, or could I use the library more or try eBooks?
  • Could I use less paper towels or even get rid of them altogether?
  • Is junk mail ruling my mailbox?
  • Do I print and file things that could remain as electronic records?
  • Do I receive newspaper and magazine subscriptions that I don’t have time to read and/or could read on an e-reader?

Some Solutions:

always Reuse paper

Any school paper or junk mail that has a blank side goes in a stack near the printer, and that’s what I use for printing recipes, my weekly calendar, notes, and anything I’m going to scan and send. It’s also what my kids use for drawing paper.

Half sheets from school become notepaper for my multitudinous lists.

If you don’t have junk mail or school papers to reuse (lucky you!), consider if you have a friend who works in an office. Guaranteed, they have gads of “oops” printed paper that they could probably nab for you! My MIL has been supplying our drawing paper for a few years now.

crustless quiche - making pesto asparagus (7) (475x356)

use recipes on the computer or tablet

See my computer in the background? That’s an eBook from my affiliate partners – Real Food, Real Easy! – helping me make those grain-free quiches for a brunch the next day. It’s actually faster for me to find the recipes on the computer, and although I do print them out sometimes, I try not to go overboard. (I can’t wait to share with you my rocking eBook efficiency tips later tonight!!)

You could organize your online recipes via Pinterest, Plan to Eat, or a good bookmarking system. Tag them logically and your browser will find them for you (most of the time).

Try ebooks

I don’t see myself as a big eBook reader, but I don’t own a Kindle or Nook. However, I DO use them very often, more and more all the time, for recipes and resources.

Of course, my own eBooks are a great resource, too!

Here’s a helpful post on storing eBooks via Kindle even if you don’t have one and another on how to read eBooks without an eReader.

Use the real thing

IMG_8337Rather than paper towel or tissues, we use rags, cloth napkins and hankies. Here’s a little more about how we keep it super frugal, too: Use the Real Thing.

Get off the catalog lists

You might remember that we lived with my in-laws for a few months between houses. I was pretty excited to change my address twice, because I thought the junk mail wouldn’t follow very well.

Here’s your laugh for the day: when I changed our address the second time, I accidentally changed it for everyone in the household, meaning my in-laws’ mail came to our house for a period of time until we got it sorted out.

Catalogs, however, change things in their system right away instead of forwarding.

Guess who is the queen of mail order shopping, and guess who is STILL getting her mother-in-law’s catalogs???


I am finally working through calling to cancel and using to get off lists. Try it and reduce your junk mail!

make pdf files

If you have to save an online receipt, make a PDF file and save it on your computer instead of printing. Added bonus: saves you money on ink, too, and you spend less time sorting papers. My nemesis.

Be sure to back up your home computer with a system like Mozy or CrashPlan (no affiliate relationship, just two programs we’ve used here). They’re inexpensive for the headache they’ll save you if you lose everything on your computer!

cancel extra subscriptions

If you don’t read it, you’re wasting your money and your paper. Cancel and be happy. Smile

What are you going to do this week to reduce or reuse your paper?

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6 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. grace b says

    My boyfriend’s grandmother sends us blank notepads, cards, envelopes and stamps every few months or so. So I’ll probably never have to buy any of these items new! I was doing better at refusing receipts but I’ve gotten lazy lately. And as we don’t have recycling at our apartment complex (horrible I know!) I feel incredible guilt over throwing them away….

    Where I have done a complete 180 since high school is buying books. I don’t buy books anymore and my own collection is roughly 5 books. We even have a box of “coffee table” books but we’ve never opened it since our move last year. My boyfriend prefers to have tangible memories so he likes to scrapbook–so I save items like ticket stubs for him in a special box so that at least limits the clutter.

    Magazines are my weakness you could say. I like to buy one or two when I fly somewhere. Or just occasionally. Thankfully I can give them to my library in our “magazine exchange” box. I LOVE this box. The issues are rarely new but I’m more than happy to read old issues of Time. :) I just take them back when I’m done.

    And I print out recipes very rarely. I’m thinking of starting a folder and copying recipes into it so I can use them on my computer at home (don’t have wifi in my apartment).

  2. Amanda Jensen says

    I have reduced my paper waste to what feels like almost zero since I had my baby. (The baby had nothing to do with the reducing, it’s just a good milestone.) Of course, I don’t know how to not get the shopping ads in this house, and the last three previous tenants still get mail here…
    The last thing that needed changing to get rid of paper towels was that I needed some wire racks to drain fried foods before serving. After that, it was a cinch. Someone actually gave me a roll of paper towels recently and I don’t have any idea what to do with it…

  3. casey says

    I’ve used catalog choice for years – the only thing I don’t like is that the company has to ‘acknowledge’ the request. I have a couple requests from 2010 that haven’t been approved yet.

    I do get receipts for anything I buy in person (though i use the ‘save as PDF trick for online stuff). I almost always pay wth cash so when I get home I need to enter all my recepits into my budget to make sure I track all my expnses properly. I’ve been looking into a receipt scanner so that evrything could be stored electronically but I haven’t decided yet.

  4. says

    Nice article! I also have a kid who uses scrap paper for everything without thinking about it (I once had to stop him from making Valentines out of a doctor’s letter about Pap smear results!!!) and has appointed himself Memo Paper Minister for our church–he refills bags on the bulletin boards with small rectangles of scrap paper. Here are more ways to use scrap paper.

    About ebooks and online recipes: Don’t forget the environmental impact of the electricity for your own device plus the server farms! Furthermore, I like being able to read and cook during a power outage. Minimizing screen time is probably better for our eyes, too, and I personally am prone to migraines that make a glowing screen painful to see while a printed page is fine. So, although I certainly enjoy reading blogs, I continue to read books on paper (unless they’re available only as ebooks) and subscribe to a few magazines and the Sunday paper.

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