Front Office > Paper Reduction

Rethinking the way your organization buys and uses paper helps trim the bottom line and can generate positive publicity.

Follow the tips below to reduce your organization’s office paper use, and visit NRDC’s Paper Project for more detailed information and tools to help reduce office paper use.

Also, consider joining the EPA’s free WasteWise program, which provides members with several benefits, including a technical assistance team that will help your organization conduct a waste audit and reduce waste.

For a useful discussion of waste reduction, see the EPA’s Resource Conservation section on reduction and reuse.

For information on paper purchasing and paper recycling, see the Paper Purchasing and Recycling sections of this guide.

Calculate environmental benefits of recycled paper

Reducing Paper Use Saves Money

A typical office disposes of about 350 pounds of wastepaper per employee per year. Identifying ways to reduce paper use can save money, time and space in your offices.

In 2005, the EPA Region 10 offices (in the Northwest U.S.) made a concerted effort to reduce paper use. Through a variety of initiatives including default double-sided printing and collection of scrap paper for reuse, the office reduced paper consumption by 30%, yielding an annual savings of $49,000.

Between 2000 and 2004, Bank of America reduced its paper consumption dramatically through an institution-wide campaign of online reports and forms, email, double-sided copying and lighter-weight papers. By reducing the basis weight of its ATM receipts from 20 pounds to 15 pounds, Bank of America saved more than just paper; this simple move also gained the bank additional savings in transportation, storage and handling costs, to the tune of $500,000 a year. Paper used for internal operations decreased 32%, saving more than a billion sheets of paper. A cost cut of $20,000 was made on a single report, by sending out postcards notifying clients that it was available online. By making forms available online instead of sending out hard copies, the company saved an estimated $10 million, not including the savings in postage and storage.

Smart Paper Practices Toolkit

Sample Memo for Developing a Smart Paper Plan
Get senior management on board with your organization’s plan to rethink paper use in the office.

Office Paper Use Questionnaire
Use this questionnaire to assess current practices in your office and find out where there’s room to improve.

Paper Reduction Worksheet
Start off with simple paper reduction strategies like these. Edit the spreadsheet and add your own strategies to create a customized plan for your office.

Sample Signs
NRDC’s New York eco-committee created these signs to help its New York office follow the new guidelines.

Sample Paper Procurement Policy
NRDC worked with a major printing company to develop these guidelines, which it now uses as procurement guidelines.

Paper Supply Verification Form
Use this form to find out if your supplier is providing your organization with environmentally friendly paper.

Paper Use Reduction Tips


  • Subject to your organization’s email policies, use e-mail instead of paper or faxes whenever practical – for internal memos as well as communications with clients and customers.
  • Don’t print e-mails. Put the words “save a tree, don’t print me” in your organization’s standard email signature.
  • Print less: keep mailing lists current, and don’t overprint copies or outside print jobs.
  • Reuse what you can. Stock your fax machine with paper already printed on one side; reuse oversize envelopes and boxes; use one-sided “draft” paper in your printers.

Printers and Copiers

  • As printers and copiers need to be replaced, purchase units that can print on both sides of a sheet of paper. Then set all computers and copiers to a default setting for double-sided printing.
  • Save and collect 8.5 x 11 inch paper that’s been printed on one side, restack it neatly, designate a paper drawer on each printer (or as many printers as practical), and use it to print drafts.
  • Adjust the house style on word processing programs to use a slightly smaller font and slightly wider margins; use the electronic “edit” and “comment” features to work on drafts instead of printing.

Incoming Mail

  • Cut down on the number of periodical subscriptions you buy. Survey to see who subscribes to what, then work out a sharing system.
  • Reduce the amount of unwanted mail your organization receives by unsubscribing or requesting to be removed from generic mailing lists.

Office Kitchen

  • Stock the kitchen with real mugs, plates, bowls and utensils to discourage the use of paper and plastic disposables. Consider cloth napkins or use paper towels with high post-consumer recycled content.
  • Encourage employees who carry in lunches to use reusable bags and napkins. Consider providing sponsor-branded bags for employees to use.

Additional Resources

NRDC Paper Project
Environmental Paper Network
Minnesota Guide to Source Reduction
A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry
WasteWise – How to Start or Expand a Recycling Program