How To: Reduce Office Paper

Businesses tear through copy paper at an estimated annual rate of 10,000 sheets for each office employee, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Even if paper is relatively affordable, the cost of using it is many times higher. The real cost includes maintaining printers and copiers, mailing correspondence, storing records and handling office paper.

While recycling office paper is a good idea, the most cost-effective waste management strategy is reduction. Attacking paper waste can reduce operating costs and result in savings in waste collection, transportation and processing. In addition to reducing whenever possible, keep valuable resources in use by purchasing paper with the highest percentage of recycled-content material for printing, copying, faxing and general office use.

Successful paper reduction plans take time and commitment. For more information, download the Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board's Office Paper Reduction Report. Examining the findings of a paper reduction pilot program tested at two major Twin Cities businesses, the report contains a fiscal analysis, strategic ideas and practical day-to-day advice on issues ranging from measuring usage levels to adjusting staff expectations and learning new approaches.

Case Study

To better reflect its customers' environmental values, Wilderness Inquiry decided to reduce paper usage. As a non-profit providing wilderness trips, the Minneapolis-based organization also wanted to increase the effectiveness of its marketing efforts without increasing costs. Through technology enhancements and website development, it achieved a 22% paper reduction over the past two years in paper communications, forms and marketing materials--along with about $700 in annual savings on copying costs. Postage costs were correspondingly reduced. Most notable are the reductions in staff time and enhanced quality of customer communications and data management. The improved perception by customers as being environmentally friendly continues to drive efforts to expand its web-based activity.


Author: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Waste Reduction Tips

  • Print and copy on both sides.
  • Use e-mail to exchange documents and memos instead of printing or faxing.
  • Adjust fonts, margins and spacing to fit more text on a standard sheet.
  • When copying, reduce size to fit two pages of a report, book or periodical on one standard sheet.
  • Reuse paper printed on one side for internal memos, "draft" documents or scratch pads.
  • Use electronic data storage instead of hard copy files.
  • Eliminate mail list duplications from databases.
  • Use recycled-content, chlorine-free paper products, and use soy or other agri-based inks for printing projects.

Reducing Unwanted Mail in the Workplace

Businesses receive mounds of unsolicited mail such as catalogs and advertisements. Handling unwanted mail costs your company time and money, as does:

  • Mail for employees that no longer work for the company
  • Multiple mailings for the same person
  • Poorly targeted mailings

Cut costs and save valuable time by reducing unwanted mail. See Reduce the Hail of Unwanted Mail from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. For further information, visit the Ecological Mail Coalition web site.


Office Paper Reduction Report

The Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board's Office Paper Reduction Report discusses environmental and economic impacts as well as the methodology of paper reduction programs. Also, see the

Reducing Waste in the Workplace fact sheet from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Recycling Options

For recycling options, see Drop-off Centers and Pick-up Services. See the Waste Reduction Checklist for more tips on reducing waste and saving money at the office. For further information, see Resources.

For More Information

For more information on reducing office paper waste, contact your county environmental office, or call the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency at (651) 296-6300.