Sustainable Living & Sustainable Lifestyle

Infographic: How Much Paper is Used in One Day - It May Surprise You!

How Much Paper Is Used In The US In One Day?

We live in a digital age. Data today is easy to file, easy to retrieve, and takes ridiculously little space to store. Right?

While this seems like common knowledge, if you look at the data, you might think most of the U.S. was stuck in the 1980s. For example, it might surprise you to learn that the U.S. population has more than doubled its paper consumption over the past 20 years — and that consumption has truly achieved staggering proportions.

For instance, how many sheets of copy paper do you think the average American office worker uses in a year? You might think a few hundred, tops. In reality, it’s 10,000 — and 45 percent of those sheets are trashed within a day. Sure, a lot of that paper gets recycled, but perhaps less than you think. In fact, about 1 out of 3 pounds of paper used ends up in the landfill.

The Real Cost of Paper

The environmental consequences of wasting this magnitude of paper are significant. First, consider the effect it has on habitat. The world loses enough forest to cover 48 football fields every minute. By the time you finish reading this article, that’s another 100-150 football fields worth of trees — gone. Forest habitat loss affects everyone. Trees are important regulators of the climate, and provide shelter for myriad diverse species.

Now, it’s true that you can get paper made from sustainably managed forest products. However, the manufacture of paper consumes an ungodly amount of resources. The paper industry is the fifth-largest energy consumer globally. Paper also demands more water use per ton of product than any other material. In this day and age, when water is becoming an increasingly precious resource, it makes sense to use paper wisely.

All it takes is one distracted moment for an office worker to misfile a document. The typical misfiled paper document costs $125 in labor to recover. If the document is lost, that amount rises to $350 or more to replace — and large companies in the U.S. lose a document every 12 seconds. In contrast, misfiled electronic documents can generally be recovered in a matter of seconds by typing a few keywords into a search engine.

On top of this, paper costs a lot to store. Considering the cost of prime office space in our nation’s cities, it’s not surprising that storing a single four-drawer filing cabinet costs an average of $1,500 per year.

Finally, storing and handling paper can actually be hazardous to office workers’ health. Old paper harbors mold, bacteria and other organisms, which can aggravate allergies and cause mild to severe respiratory distress in those handling the material.
Leave Paper Waste in the Past

There is no reason we as a society should continue to waste paper at this rate. A few simple changes in the paper-handling habits of the average office worker could make a significant difference in U.S. paper consumption — and create a healthier, more profitable work environment in the process. Here are a few tips for cutting paper waste in the office:

•    Share documents via email rather than printing hard copies.
•    Switch to electronic filing methods.
•    If you must print or copy, use both sides of the paper, adjust fonts and margins to fit more on each side, and/or reduce the size of the page to fit two pages on a single side of the sheet.
•    Keep any waste paper printed on one side to re-use as scratch pads or for printing draft documents.

Isn’t it time to leave the 1980s behind and start using paper more responsibly? It isn’t hard to do. Switching to electronic filing is easier than you may think, and it comes with so many benefits to companies, employees and the planet!

Author bio: As U.S. Chief Operating Officer at Esker, Steve Smith is responsible for all operations in North, South and Central America. Esker is a global leader in document process automation, helping organizations around the world automate their manual business processes and increase their workflow and productivity.

Paper Usage Infographic

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