It only takes 3 simple steps for you to become paperless - stop producing, stop receiving, and stop collecting. Read below if you need help to stop receiving all the paper. This is likely the hardest step and will take more effort than to stop producing.
Where does it all come from?
To stop receiving paper is challenging because of the multitude of sources that bring paper into our lives. We often lose momentum after completing the first step. The biggest culprits helping add more paper include newspapers, magazines, receipts, bills, junk mail, and even our colleagues. Below are a few strategies to get rid of each source. Work your way through each source and slowly but surely you will stop receiving paper.
Newspapers – Let’s start with the simplest. Cancel all your newspaper subscriptions period. While it will not dramatically reduce the amount of paper you receive, it’s an easy place to start. And we need quick wins. I remember in college when I would spend almost an hour a day reading the college paper. Thinking back, what a waste of time. There are many better ways to keep up with local and world events.
Consider using an app on your phone or visit a news website at lunch. Some great news appsinclude Inkl (iOS, Android), Google News (iOS, Android), and Flipboard (iOS, Android). Most newspapers today have transitioned to online media in addition to print such as the USA today, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post. Find your news source and bookmark it in your browser or subscribe to it (which may cost a few dollars) and get it in your email inbox.
Another app I use every week is Pocket (iOS, Android). It’s a great little app that let’s you save content to read later. It typically converts the content into an easy to read format and will even read it aloud if you wish. Even with this you may still get a paper or two at your doorstep. I still get our free local paper despite never asking for it. I think ads are keeping it alive.
Magazines – Just like the newspaper, cancel your magazine subscriptions. Most of the news apps above also contain magazine articles - particularly, Flipboard (iOS, Android). Other apps to check out include Kindle (iOS, Android) and Zinio (iOS, Android). The kindle app lets you subscribe to the kindle edition right on Amazon.
Receipts – Start by saying “no thank you” to the receipts every chance you get. If it’s still handed to you, look for the closest trash can. If you need to keep it for some reason like an expense report, snap a quick picture of it using Office Lens (Windows, iOS, Android). Also, consider your payment method, using digital payment methods such as Square will email you a receipt rather than the paper version.
Bills – Every time you open a new account make sure you sign up for paperless billing right away. Typically, you can setup auto withdrawals from your checking account. Which not only saves you the hassle of paying your bills, but in some cases, will even give you a discount. You can even use a service like Mint to let you see and pay all your bills in one place. I have been a Mint user for years and love it. For those pesky accounts that don’t allow online bill pay, I recommend using your bank to mail the check for you. I used my PNC account for years to mail a check for my water bill until they finally started accepting online payments.
Junk Mail – One of the most frustrating things for a paperless person is the mailbox and the amount of junk mail you get. Start by going to dmachoice.org to turn off the faucet. Get rid of credit card offers for good with optoutprescreen.com. Try out the PaperKarma App (iOS, Android) which lets you take a picture to opt out of unwanted mail. I used it just tonight. Lastly, contact the culprits directly via their website or email. This worked for balance transfer checks from my credit card that showed up every week. Check out these other sites (1, 2, 3) for more ideas on how to rid yourself of junk mail.
Colleagues – I don’t have a great solution for this one except to explain to them that you are trying to cut down on your paper use. If they print out something to give you, just remind them to please email it to you so that you can help keep track of it better. Finally, if you want to be a little more active in stopping the influx, do not respond to anything physically handed to you. Conveniently lose the physical copy, while quickly responding to all digital communication.
Schedule time for this
The steps above may not stop every single piece of paper you receive, but it will get you a long way toward that goal. For the paper you still receive, make sure you batch it. Meaning, let it collect for a little while and then sort it quickly to dispose of it. Schedule your batching once a week.
Hopefully you found the resources above helpful. If you did please share it. Maybe even share it with that colleague that keeps printing out emails and putting them on your desk. You know who I’m talking about.