Going paperless is one way to become more "eco"-friendly or green-minded. It is the "reduce" part of "reduce, reuse, recycle." Without the need for paper, you save trees and the energy used to recycle the paper. From smart phones and tablets to online forms and smart scanner software, it's possible to switch from using paper and take care of business digitally.
It can be done, and it can be fun. I have rarely used any paper for over a year. I made it a goal. Not only did I want to go green but I saw that it is a better way to get organized and find the information I need. My printer still isn't hooked up and I moved to my new house over 2 months ago. My recycling bin is smaller. And I only have a single drawer of files. Here is what I learned about how to go paperless.
Actions to Go Paperless:
- Receive or buy less paper
- Take notes digitally
- Print less (or never)
- Scan and recycle paper you do receive
Reduce the paper you receive.
Paperless billing - Sign up with the utility companies, banks and others to get your statements emailed to you. Most companies make your account information and billing available on their website.
Fill out forms and contracts without printing - Many businesses, from doctor's offices to government agencies, have forms that can be completed and submitted on their websites. If you want to keep a copy of the completed form, save it as a PDF file on your computer.
Another way to fill out a form or sign a contract without printing is to use a iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch or Android app. Sign 'n Send for iOS and Sign Now are apps to fill in and sign forms, then send them via email, Dropbox, or through another app.
Digital receipts - A number of retail businesses offer the option of having your receipt emailed to you.
vCards instead of business cards- if you have a smart phone, consider exchanging vCards instead of business cards. A vCard is your own contact card in your address book. Create a card for yourself with all of your contact and other information that you would put on your business card. When you meet someone, you can text or email that person your vCard. If you have an iPhone or Android, you can get the Bump app to instantly exchange contact information by bumping phones together.
Digital books and magazines - Although you may love the feel and smell of books, I'll bet you hate the piles of magazines on the coffee table. With the high quality of tablets, screens and e-reader displays, beautiful photos, like those in National Geographic, can be enjoyed digitally. Digital magazines have the added benefit of short videos and interactive features that you can't get in print.
Brochures and resource files - Before you take another brochure, ask yourself if this is information you can find online. Almost everywhere you look there are those boxy QR scan codes that are replacing paper brochures. Once you have a QR code scanner app on your smart phone, center the code. This will open your phone's web browser and take you to a website for more information. Most information in magazine articles can be found online.
Maps and city-guide apps - Next time you head out to get a guidebook or map from AAA, consider navigational maps and city apps for your smart phone. Many visitor's bureaus have created apps to guide you around their city.
Taking Notes the Paperless Way- Reduce Paper Use
Jot down notes using a stylus (or your finger) in one of many note-taking apps for iPhones, iPads or Android devices. The Galaxy Note phone from Samsung was created for a superior note-taking experience.
Type notes into the Notes app on an iPhone or iPad and sync them across all your devices and your computer.
Dictate notes using Siri on iPhone. Or, use the microphone on the keyboard on iPhone 4s or iPad 3.
Take a picture with your smart phone to remember a phone number on a sign, what type of wine you liked, or the Hulu Plus activation that flashed on your TV screen. Delete the photo or upload it to Evernote.
While it may take some getting used to, working with digital files is more efficient and certainly a greener way to go. At first, I had to make a game of it. Now, it has become a habit, and I never want to go back to searching for a piece of paper that has the note I need.