5 First Steps to Help You Go Paperless at Home

Global warming has risen at an alarming rate over the last few years and the need to fix the damage to our planet has never been more important. Here are some simple steps you can take to go paperless at home and save our precious trees.

Technology has been evolving at a tremendous pace over the last decade and we humans have welcomed modern techniques and practices with open arms. Many of the old tools and items we use in our day to day lives have been replaced by their modern & updated versions. Yet there is something we still use today that is in dire need of an alternative — and that’s paper. We have been using paper for several generations in a row and for a variety of purposes. Unfortunately, the use of paper over the years has had an adverse effect on our planet, with an alarming rate of deforestation seen in the last decade. A mere 22% of the world’s population uses 72% of the world’s paper. We owe it to our future generations to stop deforestation and must take every effort to stop wastage of paper.

There are some pretty simple steps you can take to decrease the wastage of paper in your lives. You can start with some basic changes in your own home; changes that ensure that you are taking full advantage of the available alternatives and making absolutely minimal use of paper wherever possible. Leading a fully digital life where possible isn’t an easy task, but if you start small and follow a pre-set plan, you can achieve a lot in less time. Let’s take a look at five basic changes that can help you go paperless at home.

1. Subscribe to Digital e-Statements & Bills

Let’s start with something that’s a fairly obvious solution to go paperless at home, which is to cut down on the amount of paper you receive in the first place. Wherever possible, you should subscribe to digital or “e” statements for your accounts and services. One of the major contributions to wastage of paper in households are the monthly bills we receive, along with the unnecessary statements from our banks. In today’s digital age, it’s very easy to view our statements online or opt-in to receiving them in our inbox. When you subscribe to digital statements and bill copies, you’re saving anywhere between 10-30 sheets of paper a month, which is close to 250 sheets a year on average. That’s a lot of unnecessary paper saved.

Subscribing to digital copies also enables you to create an archive of all the important statements and bills, and store them in a neatly organized way. Saving and storing your archive on online storage services like Google Drive or Dropbox is a far better option compared to storing physical paper documents in a file. You can also neatly organize your digital files using apps like Documents — the best file manager app for iPhone and iPad. With Documents app, you have easy access to your entire archive, and with seamless integration with apps like PDF Expert for PDF editing and Printer Pro for printing documents if you ever feel the need to, you’re on your way to leading a digital life.

This is the easiest & simplest way to go paperless at home, and having ready access to all your bills in one place also ensures that you don’t miss out on the next due date for your bill payments.

2. Scan & Digitally Store All your Important Documents

Now that you have subscribed to digital copies of your bills and statements, wouldn’t it be nice to have digital versions of your other important documents? Let’s start with your ID documents such as a driver's license, Passport, Tax ID, etc. It is always a good idea to create and store digital copies of your ID documents. Don’t worry, this process is far simpler than you think. You don’t need a dedicated scanning device at all — just grab a copy of Scanner Pro from the App Store and your iPhone or iPad is now your scanner. Take photos of your documents and they’re automatically saved as PDF or JPG files, ready for you.

This not only gives you easy access to these documents whenever you need them, but it also saves you the trouble of retaining multiple photocopies of each document. Instead of creating and storing copies of your ID documents on paper, you can take printouts of them on demand and use PDFs for digital uploads to websites and other services. 

Similarly, you can scan and store copies of other kinds of documents such as bills (ones that you cannot receive in digital form), daily use receipts, business cards, etc. These small efforts go a long way in reducing the paper clutter in your home.

3. Take Notes on your Mobiles or Tablets

The phones and tablet devices available in the market today are very powerful tools with a lot of features and functions. Most of these devices offer excellent features that allow you to take notes digitally and act upon them. So whenever possible, you should utilize your phones and tablets to take notes instead of scribbling on a piece of paper or in a notebook. There are tons of modern apps available for both iOS and Android that offer special note-taking features, such as the ability to recognize your handwriting and convert it automatically into text, the ability to recognize emails and phone numbers and make them tappable, so you can one-tap dial a phone number, and the ability to integrate and share with other apps as you like.

When you get into the habit of taking digital notes instead of using paper for it, you’re making a conscious effort to save paper and thus save trees.

4. Purge Your Mail Subscriptions

By far the biggest wastage of paper happens through all the unnecessary postage or mail that gets delivered every week. A surprising number of people are still subscribed to magazines, periodicals and newspapers that no one in the family reads. Then there’s the unsolicited mail that drops in every now and then. At the end of the month, all of this junk ends up in the trash to be thrown away, all without a word being read.

You can easily avoid all this wastage of paper by unsubscribing from the periodicals that you don’t read. Take a look at all the current subscriptions that are being delivered to your home and cancel the ones you don’t use. One of the biggest sources of wastage are the “Yellow Pages” phone books. There are many households that still receive copies of these phone books, and considering how millions of trees are cut to get them printed, you should definitely opt-out here. Even if you like reading something, it is very likely today that there’s a better, cleaner and easy-accessible online-version of the same that is included in your subscription. You can opt-in to digital-only access and opt-out of physical deliveries to your home. Not only do you save paper from being wasted, you’re also saving postage.

And for all those periodicals & magazines that you do read in physical form, please recycle.

5. Encourage Others to Go Paperless

Of course, all your efforts to go paperless at home don’t mean much if you can’t convince others at home to do the same. Every change you make in an attempt to save paper wastage is a small step towards a much larger goal, and it’s easier to reach this goal when you have your entire family and circle of friends helping you. So we recommend taking some time to talk to your family members and your friends about why it’s important to save paper and why it’s the need of the hour. The more people you get on board, the easier it’ll get in the long run. 

These five steps that we’ve outlined above may seem overwhelming at first, but remember, all big journeys begin with a small first step. When you consider the outcome of your actions — how every sheet of paper saved means ultimately saving the earth’s forests, there’s no better motivation for you.

Let us know in the comments below how you’ve gone paperless in your home, and what sort of changes did you bring about in your family. 

Preshit Deorukhkar Preshit Deorukhkar

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