Going Green: The Paperless Office

Going green is one of the biggest trends in the world right now. A popular topic at summits among world leaders tend to include a lot of debate on cutting carbon emissions and other green initiatives. The film industry touts their efforts to keep productions are green as possible (The 2008 film The Incredible Hulk became the first big budget blockbuster film to earn the Environmental Media Association‘s Green Seal). Recycling is huge (especially for those of us who live in areas where bottles can be returned for a small refund). Most people are in some way making some form of effort to be more environmentally friendly.

Caring about the environment is important.  We haven’t quite got the whole space travel and terraforming thing down yet, so this is the only planet we’ve got, and it’s important that we take care of it.

But your personal reasons for doing so don’t necessarily have to be altruistic. You don’t need to feel, as some would put it, like a “tree hugging hippie”, just by taking steps to help the environment in your day to day or business life. Doing so can actually save you money. And as a self-employed individual who’s all about their Personal Independent Earnings, saving money puts more profit in your pocket, and you really can’t argue with that.  Well, you could, but it would be rather silly to do so.

There’s one thing in particular that modern technology has made possible, which is what we’ll be discussing today. The paperless office.

Anyone who’s ever had an office job, or even has a home office knows, that you go through a ton of paper and printer ink on a monthly basis. Depending on what you do, you could have stacks and stacks of it lying around. Enough you could probably build a whole tree out of it if you were feeling particularly bored and crafty one day.

It doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, doing so is rather silly when you think about it. Here are a few things paper is used for in the average office, and how to eliminate it.

Correspondence:  In a corporate office, physical memos get sent out all the time, and in many cases to a lot of staff members. This is a huge waste. For the smaller office of someone self-employed, chances are you’ll still find yourself printing and sending out paper documents and letters on a regular basis. Again, a waste. A long time ago, in a basement far, far away, somebody came up with the brilliant idea of electronic mail, or e-mail. It is faster, more efficient, doesn’t require the use of paper or printer ink, and can easily be organized into folders for easy location of particularly important e-mails. Really, it boggles the mind why something like the fax machine even exists anymore. Switching as much correspondence as possible from physical paper copies to electronic will save you a fortune in the long run.

Backups: Anyone will tell you that not having backups of your important documents is a pretty stupid thing to do. And they’re right. But many people still do this by printing copies and storing them in a filing cabinet. Why!? First of all, this necessitates owning a filing cabinet in the first place, which costs money and takes up much needed real estate in your home office. Then you have to actually print everything, which again leads to spending money on paper and expensive printer ink. Now imagine you’re moving and have to cart that full filing cabinet out of your current location to a new one? All that paper gets very heavy, very quickly. This is easily avoided. Back up all of your important documents to an external hard drive (or hard drives) that are expressly for this purpose. It can even be done automatically if you set it up correctly. Alternatively, you can use physical media like CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays, although organizing them could also become a bit of a pain as they pile up, and unless you’re using more expensive re-writable media, you could end up with discs and discs full of outdated documents. Online backup storage is also available from multiple services, and is incredibly cheap. Regardless of which way you decide to go, this method will save you money, and perhaps almost as important, space. All while retaining the piece of mind that comes with having backups of everything important.

Making Copies: Ah yes, now this one is a bit of a problem. There will always be a time when you’ll have to make a copy of something. In many cases (such as contracts, something we’ll touch on in a later blog post), there’s no getting around it. But if you have to distribute a document you’ve created or been sent to your staff, business partners, spouse, etc. you don’t have to make a physical copy. As with correspondence, an electronic copy will do just fine. Invest in a scanner, scan the necessary document, and e-mail it. Then back it up using your back up method of choice, and be done with it. Once again, faster and more convenient than making multiple physical copies and distributing them.

And just for fun:

Paper Airplanes: I know, I know, who doesn’t love a good paper airplane. But there are far more entertaining and eco-friendly ways to amuse yourself while working. Remote control helicopter anyone? They’re rechargeable, far more fun to fly, and are great for terrorizing unsuspecting co-workers. Or your neighbors. Or your dog. Anyone really. Yes, they are a bit pricey, but with all the money you’ve now saved by eliminating paper from your office, why not treat yourself?

In all seriousness though, there’s one more point I’d like to touch on before wrapping up for today. I’ve spoken a lot about paper over the course of this post, but only touched briefly on one item that goes hand in hand with it. Printer ink. Anyone who has ever owned a printer knows that ink cartridges are expensive. Looking at a sticky note next to my printer, replacing the color and black cartridges in my personal printer costs about $100. Just for ink cartridges that don’t tend to last very long. The money you save eliminating paper from your office may not seem like much at first (though it will definitely add up over time). The money you’ll save by also being able to eliminate printer ink on the other hand, is quite a bit more substantial and will add up far more quickly.

Going green is the right thing to do for the environment. There’s no question of that. But it can also be the right thing to do for your pocket book, bringing you one step closer to the biggest possible piece of PIE.