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Paper Reduction

Tips for Reducing Paper Use in Office Settings

Paper is the largest component of the solid waste stream in the United States by weight, comprising about 40% of total waste or 81.3 million tons a year. Paper is also a significant portion of most departments’ budgets.

The amount of paper used in office settings can be reduced by printing less, reusing where appropriate, and recycling. Specific steps you can take to reduce paper usage include:

  • Communicate electronically and create hard copies only when needed. Edit documents on screen using the “track changes” function and bookmark websites instead of printing to reduce paper usage.
  • Change all printers, copiers, and faxes to their double-sided printing settings. In order to make this a default setting for Printers hooked up to a Windows computer, follow these steps: (1) Click on Printers and Faxes under the Start menu; (2) Right click on the Printer with double-sided capabilities and go to Printing Preferences; and (3) Under the Printing Shortcuts tab, there will be an option for Duplex (Two-sided) Printing.
  • Consider electronic magazine subscriptions and electronic books whenever possible, or purchasing an Amazon Kindle or similar eReader. Books, PDFs, and word documents can be send to eReaders and read on the go. Small, compact laptops with internet access capabilities are becoming more affordable, too.
  • Use your email Inbox as a filing system and set up “storage” folders within your Inbox. Right click on the “Inbox” icon while it is highlighted and choose “New Folder.” Name the new folder and choose your desired location and then click and drag the emails over to it to archive them. Many files eventually end up having to be emailed to someone, so after sending a document via email, the user can navigate to the “Sent Mail” folder in email and drag the email with the attached file to a storage folder in the Inbox. All emails and documents about a topic can be stored in one place.
  • If your email account has limited storage space and you find that storing emails and documents in your Inbox is not feasible, you can arrange for emails and documents to be saved periodically to your computer. In Outlook, this function is called Auto Archive.
  • If you need to take a file to a location outside of your office (e.g. presentation) or to work on a document at home, just email it to yourself from work. You may then use the computers at your destination or your computer at home to access the email from the internet and open the document there. A new version can be emailed back to yourself at work.
  • If you don’t want to email a file to yourself or can’t because of large bandwidth, use a storage stick, mp3 player, iPod, or external hard drive. Be careful with these transportable forms of storage because they can get lost and might have sensitive or confidential data on them.
  • A networked system and shared drive space within your department or area allows individuals to share documents instead of emailing them to each other with the added benefit back up on Vandy’s network. Offices that handle confidential and sensitive information can arrange to have different levels of access for shared drive areas, ensuring that only people who have clearance can access certain information. Sectional, personal, and project folders with different levels of access can also be set up within shared drive spaces. ITS administrators typically set-up network access and shared drive space.
  • Online file sharing program like Google Docs allow users to modify and share files from multiple locations. If using such programs, PLEASE USE CAUTION, because much of the information Vanderbilt handles is governed by privacy laws like FERPA and HIPPA.
  • Different filing styles work for different people. One suggestion might be to file by project or major area of responsibility, then by year. If you manage several people, you might want to create a folder for each person and their work.
  • Wheeled bags make carrying a laptop around much easier, allowing you to take notes on your laptop that can be stored on the hard drive. This keeps the user from handling lots of paper.
  • Suspend printing your pay advice. If you are using direct deposit and receive a blue pay advice, log into C2HR. A message will appear giving you the option to turn off your printed pay advice. Simply select “Yes.”