12 Months of Sustainable Living / Paper

The Paper Free Office & Sustainable Stationary

The Paperless Office

You could say my first introduction to sustainable living was in primary school when we were asked to bring all our old paper, magazines and newspaper to school to recycle for a fundraising project. I remember seeing the volunteer moms sorting through the mounds of paper in the wooden shed the school had put up for this purpose and thinking, how could we have accumulated so much paper in a school so small.

Next came can recycling and then it was glass and finally we now have a new (hopefully) revolution on our hands of people trying to live their lives in a more waste free way. When I think of where my journey started it always goes back to paper. It’s easy for a child to understand that when you waste paper it means trees have been cut down for no reason, and that is bad because trees give us life. As we get older it’s also easy to forget this because we stop seeing trees as these big, gracious organisms that give us life, because life becomes so crazy and big in itself.

Paper diaries and notebooks are things you can consider to stop using in 2019.

That’s why I wanted to start my 12 Months of Sustainable Living with Paper. It’s where it all started for me and I want to take it back there. Starting small is the way to go, not to get overwhelmed and to start the journey on familiar terms.

The Paper (Free) Office

One of the places where we use the most paper is in the office, at our jobs and at our desks. Sometimes I feel like I’m overwhelmed by the amount of paper that gets produced every day in my day job. With printers spewing out paper every few minutes, memos, reports and those dreaded colour testing prints (in book publishing at least) the amount of paper used, and misused is emmence.

Personally, I made a pact with myself when I started working to only print when it’s 100% necessary. It’s actually at a point where I’m sometimes not sure how the printer works at a new job until a few weeks or a month into the job. I’ve created hacks for myself to make it easier to not print and technology has really helped me with this. I am a great advocate for using technology to simplify your life and I’ve experienced how it can be used to also save energy and help us live more sustainably. If you’ve never given tech the time of day, maybe it’s time to change your perspective in order to allow yourself to go further on your sustainable living journey.

Use an iPad to make notes in meetings and carry around documents instead of printing.

Using Technology to Save Paper

There are a number of great gadgets you can use to keep yourself from printing, sometimes you just need to know how to use them. The following have been a huge help for me in the office:

  • iPad\Tablet: You really don’t need to have a printed out copy of the meeting agenda in front of you to look prepared. Why not rather open the agenda on your iPad using a few handy apps (or even your phone if you don’t have an iPad or tablet).
  • Dropbox: Open a Dropbox account for yourself and add all your Word and PDF files to it. Then download the app onto your iPad or tablet, or even phone, and see how easy it is to have them available at any time.
  • Adobe PDF Reader: There are a couple of free ones available on both the iStore and Google Play, but the Adobe PDF Reader has worked the best for me across platforms. You can make notes, highlight and even add images to PDFs using most of these apps. Perfect to take into meetings on your tablet or phone.
  • Office365: I cannot emphasize enough how the 365 suite (Word, PowerPoint, Excel and more) has changed the way I work in every aspect of my life! The main difference between 365 and the normal Office suite is that you can add 365 to a number of devices, including your computer, phone, and tablet, using just one license. There are two options available for home users on a yearly pay base. Because you make a yearly commitment it also means your Office programs will never be out of date. It might not seem like something you would worry about on a daily base, but until you end up with a Word document that can’t open a file someone sent you because it’s too old, you will appreciate the commitment. The best thing about 365 is that you also get OneDrive which allows you to save your documents in the cloud. Think live Dropbox where you can access your files anytime on any device (with your 365 app or program on), and make changes to them as you go along.

Top Tip: Your company might not have Office 365 available to you, but that’s fine. You can combine Dropbox on your devices and your personal 365 apps to make changes to the documents while not at your computer and then easily download them back onto your work computer from Dropbox.

These apps have helped me to not print anything for any meetings for over a year now and best is, I never have to search through old papers to find the one I made notes on, it’s all saved in neat folders on my devices. Also, don’t be afraid to bring your own device to work for things like this. Check your device policy at work and if there is a reason you aren’t allowed to have company information on your personal device ask the question as to why devices are not available to employees for meeting purposes. In the end you will be saving the company on paper and ink by not printing and being more organised at that.

Creating a paper free office can make your work space feel much lighter and more manageable.

Other Tips for a Paper Free Office

  • If you do have to print set your print settings by default to print on both sides of the paper. This will literally half the amount of paper you print on.
  • Say no to sticky notes. I know how handy those tiny colourful pieces of paper can be. In my previous job I swore by them, but then you realise how quickly you throw them away and they can’t be recycled because of the sticky side. Why not rather use the sticky note apps on your computer. These come in just as many great colours and you can change the size depending on how much information you want to add. It also has spellcheck and makes copying that information to documents so much easier.
  • When using notebooks write on both sides of the page. We might never completely escape the need for a notebook so if you have to still use one make sure to cram if full writing from the top to the bottom of every page. There are also a couple of really great recycled notebook options available. See below for some of my favourite for 2019.
  • Don’t buy a Diary this year, use your Outlook calendar (or Google or Apple calendar). 99% of all jobs today are email based and despite the huge amount of emails completely overwhelming us sometimes, there is one good thing about these email programs. Most of them use a calendar in conjunction with their email services. This has been the biggest challenge for me so far but I’ve found a way to not buy a diary at all in 2019. Read my post on how I’ve done it here.

My Favourite Recycled Notebook Options for 2019

  • Paperchase have a number of notebooks made with recycled paper on offer and they are actually really pretty.
  • Etsy has a number of really cool recycled notebooks in all shapes and sizes
  • Green Tulip (Ethical Online Gift shop) is another great option.
  • Go Stationary’s notebooks are not recycled but they do use FSC Certified Paper for all their stationery and they are beautiful.
    • They have two collections in partnership with the National Woodland Trust of which 30p is donated from each purchase. 
  • For my friends in South Africa:
    • If you want to go very rustic try Growing Paper. They make 100% recycled paper stationary (you can even use them for wedding invites
Use technology to create a paper free office in 2019.

Hi, I'm Andri. A 20-something creative, content creator, writer, reader, traveler, healthy living enthusiast and eco warrior! My day job is in digital publishing, but just like The Loud Library, I am full of contradictions. I love my bunny rabbit Olive, cows and sharing my journey to rediscover my spark.

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