Paper waste is a major contribution to the total waste at landfills, being approximately 26% of it.[1] Over two million trees are cut down for global paper consumption every day. This means that four billion trees are cut down every year just to serve our paper needs! [2] Trees are an important component of nature,[3] so it is important to do what we can to save them. This article will teach you some ways to reduce paper waste.


Write on both sides of the paper.

  1. The back of a piece of paper can be used for things like sketches or other notes.[4] If you don't want to write on both sides of the paper right away, that's alright. Consider keeping a box of the paper that you've only used one side of, so you can easily have the paper for when you need it.[5]
    • Be sure to use a good quality pen and paper so that the ink doesn't transfer onto the other side of the paper. To prevent this from occurring at all, you could also write with a regular or mechanical pencil.
      • If you want to use a pen, you could also consider writing lightly with a pencil first since this will avoid making imprints that would require you to discard the page.
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Reuse envelopes and folders by sticking a new label on them.

  1. There are a lot of ways you can reuse paper. Some good ideas are:
    • Use it for packing fragile materials. Used magazines and newspapers are great for packing material. When moving or shipping something, you can use old newspapers to wrap fragile materials.
    • Save packaging, coloured paper, and other paper items for arts and crafts projects. Do some research and figure out some craft projects that you could make with your leftover paper products.
    • Clean with old paper. You can use newspaper to wipe windows, and you can also dampen newspaper and use it to shine stainless steel appliances.
    • Make a fire starter. Paper burns fast, making it a great fire starter, meaning that you can use it in your fireplace or fire pit to get your logs burning.
    • Use old magazines to decoupage. Old magazines can be used for a variety of fun decoupaged crafts.
    • Make origami out of the paper. Since origami is the art of folding paper, it would be a great way to reuse your paper products.
  1. It takes a lot less energy and money to recycle paper than to make some from raw material.
    • If there's one further away, consider storing some papers and giving them to the recycling centre every month.
    • Recycling only one ton of paper will save 13 trees, 26,500 litres of water, 2.5 barrels of oil, and 4,100 kilowatts per hour of electricity! Paper can also reasonably be recycled five to seven times before getting thrown away.[8]
    • If you want, you can also make your own recycled paper.
    • Recycling paper doesn't always mean putting it in the recycling bin. You can turn old paper into origami or scrunch it up into a ball to practice juggling! Recycling is the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects. There are many ways of recycling old paper, and depositing your paper in a recycling bin is merely one way to recycle it.

Take notes on your computer or smartphone when possible.

  1. Instead, use a computer or your smartphone. You could use a sticky note tool, note app, or word processor to do this.
    • You can also add images to your notes and categorize them if you'd like to use other programs. Another advantage to taking notes online is that in some cases, you can see them from all your devices–mobile phones, tablets, PCs etc.— since many are available on the web and as their own standalone apps.
    • You can also consider trying to write your grocery list or figuring out mathematical sums (you could also just use a regular calculator for this) on your computer or smartphone.
    • Never write online access codes/credentials, and posting them to these services to avoid risking potential of identity theft, which is a big hazard and a big no-no! Places like Google Drive and Microsoft Word on the Web, are good substitutes.
    • Programs such as Evernote and OneNote, Notepad, Textedit, Notepad++ etc. are some examples of cheap note-taking apps (although this might depend on where you live).
    • You may still have to use paper if you're taking notes for school and they don't allow you to use a phone or computer, or if you find that taking paper notes helps you remember the material better. If so, consider writing in smaller (yet still readable) handwriting so the notes take up less space.

Send e-mails instead of traditional mail.

  1. There are also some other disadvantages to traditional mail, such as it taking time to reach the recipient, you having to go to a post office, and getting lost on the way (which is rare, although still possible). E-mails have a few advantages, including being delivered much quicker than traditional mail, the ability to be sent to one person or a larger group, and being able to send them at any time[9] (to name just a few).
    • You could also text or call someone as opposed to sending something in the traditional mail if you don't want to email them.
    • Even if something needs to be signed, you may still be able to sign it with an electronic signature and e-mail the signed document.[10]
    • Consider sending emails to yourself if you really need to send yourself a reminder or something that needs to be written and saved for posterity– that you once might have noted on post-it notes.
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Limit how much you print.

  1. Instead, save them electronically whenever possible. While it may be easier to print documents, since you won't have to log on to a computer or smartphone to find them, there are some disadvantages to printing.
    • Printed documents tend to get lost. You could end up losing them in a pile of other supplies, or you may simply forget where you placed them. As a result, you may not be able to find the document when you need it.
    • They may take up a lot of space. Especially if you have a lot of other things, adding a document to the mix will likely result in more space being used.
    • You may forget to bring them along with you. If you need to bring the document somewhere, you may forget it by accident. If the document is saved on a computer, you don't have to worry about bringing it somewhere, since you can simply log on to a computer and find it.
  2. This has additional benefits, instead of printing them. You can easily find documents this way since you'll likely have your phone with you most of the time, and they won't take up much physical space.
    • You can use drive storage programs to save your documents, such as Google Drive or OneDrive, so that they won't get lost and you can access them from any device, anywhere, at any time. With these programs, you'll also likely be able to give and receive feedback on your document easier.[11]
    • Remember what you name all of your files and if you place them in any folders (and if so, the name of the folder). Otherwise, you may not be able to find them when you need them.
  3. Print double-sided if you need to print. While the process for doing this may vary depending on the printer, it's typically not very difficult.[12] This method will also cost you 50% less since you won't need to use a second sheet of paper.
    • Double-check beforehand to see if your printer allows double-sided printing. If it doesn't, you can still print double-sided manually.
    • Using smaller (but still readable) fonts if possible can also be helpful, since what you're printing may not even end up on a second page.
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Use recycled paper.

  1. Recycled paper, in some instances, costs less since less energy is required to recycle paper than to make some from raw material.[13]
    • Check labels to see if a product or its packaging is made from recycled content. Specifically, you'll want to see if you can find what percentage of the paper is recycled (the higher the percentage, the better it is for the environment), and/or an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) seal, since this seal indicates that sustainably-harvested wood fibres were used to make the paper.[14]
    • Some pencils may be made from newspaper or recycled paper— consider writing with these.

Read e-papers instead of buying newspapers.

  1. Instead, try reading your daily news in e-paper form. You might be able to find this online, usually on the newspaper publisher's website.
    • You might have to pay a monthly fee for this, but some publications do offer free e-papers.
    • If the publication you like to read does not offer an online version, consider referring to other sites for news updates.
    • Similarly, instead of purchasing books, consider reading e-books or checking out library books. Some examples of e-readers you can purchase include Amazon Kindles and Nooks, though you may also be able to read e-books on a tablet or smartphone.
    • Consider purchasing audiobooks, which can complement eBooks you read without any loss of position.
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Use cloth bags instead of paper ones.

  1. Typically, paper bags also aren't made using recycled materials. Paper bags also usually tear easily and they don't tend to do well in the rain. Also, the fertilizers and other chemicals that are used to make paper and for tree farming are acid rain contributors, and they also contribute to higher rates of waterway eutrophication.[15] Cloth bags, therefore, are a more environmentally friendly choice.
    • Plastic bags are also not a good choice for the environment, since they are made using petroleum, a finite resource. As it gets more limited, obtaining petroleum causes a larger amount of harm to the environment. They can also be a challenge to recycle, since they often cling onto machines or fly out of recycling bins, thus ending up in oceans, landfills and streets, where they can put wildlife in danger. They also are not typically biodegradable.[16]
    • Cloth bags are a lot more durable than paper bags. Cloth bags can be washed and used multiple times,
    • If you don't have a cloth bag, you can make your own.
    • When shopping, always carry your own bags. Politely deny taking paper or plastic bags if you are offered them by the mall or store.
    • If you need to use a paper bag and it doesn't end up damaged, consider reusing it, as a bag for lunch, for craft projects, or as a trash, recyclables or compost bag. You can also compost your paper bag— simply tear up the bag and put it in your compost pile.[17]

Buy products with less packaging.

  1. Certain packaging items may also become litter, thus polluting waterways and being in the environment for a longer period than they were used. There are a few things you can do to use less packaging in your daily life.[18]
    • Carry reusable items whenever possible. This includes not only a reusable bag but also a reusable straw, utensils, and water bottle, to name just a few things.[19]
    • Purchase in bulk whenever you can. Not only can this help to reduce waste from packaging, but it can also save you money.[20]
    • Instead of pre-packaged products, purchase products like vegetables and fruit that are loose.[21]
    • If you're unsure of which brand of a product to purchase, buy the one that does not use as much packaging.[22]
    • Reuse packaging when you can.[23] You can use packaging for things like craft projects or storage.
    • Consider using websites such as Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle, or Craigslist if you need an item. You may be able to find what you need on there[24] , and it may use less packaging.
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Avoid paper dinnerware and cups.

  1. For example, if the paper product has been utilized for food (such as a carton or paper plate), it typically cannot be recycled. In addition, while waste that reaches landfills might be sealed in a plastic container or bin (and occasionally buried) and thus prevent harmful materials from reaching the environment, the product (whether it's paper or plastic) will not be able to break down.[27] Use reusable cups and dinnerware instead of dinnerware in your daily life, and the next time you have a picnic or dinner party.
    • Reusable dinnerware can also typically be used a lot more than disposable dinnerware.
    • Recently, many people have started using edible dinnerware, too. It is made from seaweed and not genetically modified. If you don't want to buy real dinnerware, this is another option for what you can purchase.
  2. As with paper dinnerware, many paper cups end up in the trash, rivers, seas oceans, or landfills because people just throw them away instead of disposing of them properly. This leads to a lot of paper simply being wasted.
    • Furthermore, many paper cups have a plastic liner which many recycling programs do not accept (though check with yours—it may be accepted).
    • When you go out, remember to always keep a reusable cup with you. Some companies (such as Starbucks) may be able to pour your drink into your reusable cup, so be sure to ask.[28]
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Spread the word about reducing paper waste.

  1. You can start with family, friends, co-workers and anyone else you know. You can share this on social media, or simply just discuss it with them in conversation.
    • You can talk about the statistics of how much paper is wasted, how much energy is saved when recycling, how many trees are saved by recycling, and any other facts about paper waste you know.
    • Give them ideas on what they can do to help. This can be done by telling them what you do to help, and by giving them other ideas that you've found through research or in this article.
    • Explain everything properly and avoid rushing through the discussion. You'll also want to be prepared to answer any questions they may have.
    • If you notice them wasting paper, be patient with them and explain why the wasting of paper is harmful to the environment, as well as what they can do to reduce paper waste.
    • If you see that a business is constantly wasting paper (either by using too many paper bags or too much paper packaging), consider writing to them and politely asking if they can use recycled paper or go paperless if possible.
    • Consider a donation to organizations that are known for their efforts to reduce paper waste and/or are known to make an effort to use as little paper as possible. You can find some good organizations to potentially donate to on Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Why should I reduce paper waste?
    Community Answer
    Reducing paper waste helps save millions of trees and lots of landfill space. In addition, it will reduce water and land pollution. Reducing paper waste is one major contribution you can easily make to protecting our environmental resources.


  • Working online frequently may cause eye strain. If you notice that your eyes feel strained, try some steps to relieve eye strain. If your symptoms are severe, contact an ophthalmologist. Try avoiding eye strain to be safe in the first place.

Expert Interview

Thanks for reading our article! If you’d like to learn more about recycling, check out our in-depth interview with Kathryn Kellogg.


About This Article

Kathryn Kellogg
Co-authored by:
Sustainability Specialist
This article was co-authored by Kathryn Kellogg. Kathryn Kellogg is the founder of, a lifestyle website dedicated to breaking eco-friendly living down into a simple step-by-step process with lots of positivity and love. She's the author of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste and spokesperson for plastic-free living for National Geographic. This article has been viewed 56,173 times.
13 votes - 66%
Co-authors: 15
Updated: September 2, 2023
Views: 56,173