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Five Ways Going Paperless Will Save a Few Trees

Going paperless helps you go green.

When looked at from the standpoint of saving paper, is going paperless worth the effort? After all, paper's cheap and infinitely renewable. Indeed, paper companies are dedicated to replacing all the trees they harvest. So why worry about saving trees?

Here's why: Because it's better to leave mature trees in place, beautifying the world and filtering out pollution and carbon dioxide and replacing our planet with oxygen. This doesn't even touch upon all the resources that not cutting down trees saves, and the pollutants that processing paper introduces into the biosphere.

Let's take a look at a few ways that going paperless can save trees.

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Way #1: Printing and Copying

Did you know that the average office worker uses 10,000 pieces of paper yearly? That's 20 reams, the equivalent of an entire tree! So if you stop printing and copying documents, you'll save a tree a year.

Imagine how many trees would be saved if just half the workers in the Western World went paperless. The number would soon add up to the billions.

Way #2: Junk Mail

Junk mail accounts for 30% of all mail received in the world (and more than half in the U.S). American households alone receive 4-6.5 million tons per year (the amount cited depends on the source), and 44% goes to the landfill unopened.

Let's be conservative and assume that Americans receive 4,000,000 tons of junk mail annually. That's eight billion pounds. A standard ream of paper weighs five pounds. Imagine a stack of 1.6 billion reams of paper: it would stand about 50,000 miles high, over a fifth of the distance to the Moon.

This works out to an incredible 100 million trees. So by opting out of junk mail, your household can save about a tree per year.

Way #3: Bills and Personal Correspondence

Since 2005, bills and personal correspondence have comprised a bit less than half the average household's mail. Needless to say, there's no reason to waste trees on bills when you can receive paperless statements instead. You don't have to send in paper checks, either.

Add personal correspondence, and the number of trees harvested for legitimate mail rivals the 100 million wasted as junk mail. So converting to paperless billing and payments can save about a tree per household annually.

Way #4: Packaging

One aspect of going paperless that many people overlook is the concept of packaging, much of which is made of paper or cardboard of some sort. That, too, adds up to a huge number of trees. Purchasing items in bulk, for example at warehouse stores, is one way to decrease your incoming packaging.

Way #5: Books and Newspapers

It took an estimated 8.4 million trees to print every copy of the seven Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. (Yes, someone actually calculated that). While printing books is a more noble undertaking than printing 5,000,000 copies of another direct mail insert, it really, really adds up in a literate society.

Most books don't do as well as the Harry Potter saga, but the Green Press Initiative and Book Industry Study Group claim that paper companies harvest as many as 30 million trees annually for the books sold in the U.S. alone.

The number of trees used for newspapers is uncertain, but must be in the millions, since 24 billion copies are published a year, and only 30% are recycled. Then there are the 350 million magazines; again, the tree usage is uncertain.

Needless to say, purchasing digital copies of your favorite books, magazines, and newspapers for your e-reader is a great way to save trees, and one of the easiest aspects of going paperless!