<a href="http://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/julie#">Green challenges</a>

Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

New challenge: going paperless

Credit: mk2010, via Wikimedia Commons

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So we’ve got a new challenge! This month we’re going to see how paperless we can make our lives. It’s going to be a little tricky, because paper has a way of creeping into your home while you’re not paying attention.

Just looking around me now, here’s the ways I use paper that could be removed from my life:

  • mail: bills and junk mail
  • magazines: I’ve got a habit of buying them as treats instead of chocolates after a hard day!
  • paper towels: we use them in the kitchen for a few things
  • tissues: with cold and flu season coming up, I bet we’ll all be seeing more of these
  • gift wrap: I try to reuse it when I can, or use gift bags instead
  • office paper: my boss really likes to print out instructions for the tasks she gives me

How about you? Take a look and see what paper is lurking in the corners and you could maybe get rid of in some way.

To be fair, I’m also a lot better about using paper than I was before I started making eco-friendly changes in my life. In 2009 we did the paperless billing challenge. I don’t subscribe to any newspapers, and have cancelled my Yellow Pages delivery since I use the internet as my directory now. The local paper still arrives, but I use that in our compost for now.

For several years now I’ve been using toilet paper made from recycled paper. Look for eco-friendly brands who use 100% recycled paper, not the ones that put a little bit of recycled stuff in-between trees from virgin rainforests.

No-one seems to have noticed that I only send cards to people on one-off occasions like births and weddings, and don’t bother for regular events like birthdays and Christmas anymore.

To give yourself a kick-start in the challenge, why not try a couple of easy ways to reduce your paper use today? Cancelling your Yellow Pages can be done online or by phone, and you can get No Junk Mail stickers for your letterbox in hardware stores and post offices.


So you'll get rid of paper towels and tissues. Then what? Use cloth towels to mop up your spills and use handkerchiefs to respond to colds and allergies? Then invest a lot more time and energy in laundering them? There's a cost to doing that.

Everyone should pick the path that's right for them. But it's very easy to just say "go paperless" when in reality it's not always a practical solution for everyone. A paper phonebook is free. Internet costs money. If I'm on a tight budget, internet is something I can do without, and I'll take the free phonebook any day of the week. Even if I can affford internet, electronic banking and bill paying has its own set of drawbacks, including increased likelihood of account information being hacked and lack of detailed information that a paper trail can provide.

I'll stick with the tried and true "old way" of doing things.

And since virtually all paper is recyclable, I'm much more concerned about all the hardshell plastic packaging that is not easily recyclable and only winds up in the landfill.

You're right, it's important to make sure you're not switching to something with a higher eco-impact. But I just chuck my cloth towels in with my bathtowels and teatowels when I wash those, and so it's not adding much to my time or energy usage.

The phonebook is an interesting one, isn't it? I work online, so I have to have the internet so I can do my job. It's easy for me to switch a lot of paper use to it instead. But my mum is on dialup and so much prefers to keep her phonebook instead. Sensis (who are running the Yellow and White Pages now) are finding that more and more of their phonebooks are getting thrown away immediately, or left outside on doorsteps by people who don't use them. If those people would cancel, they'd be helping Sensis out as well as the environment. And it can't be nice for them to see their hard work just flung aside like it's junk mail!

Recycling still takes energy and water and time too - as always, "reduce" and "reuse" come before "recycle" in our 3 R's. I do think that paper is far and away a much better option than plastic, but if you can avoid using it for disposable items, that helps preserve our plantations for the really important uses of paper.