Paper Pile-ups, Begone!

 by Lauren Topor, multimedia journalist and Arizona State University grad

There’s nothing quite like tax time to remind you that paper has a knack for piling up. That’s especially true when you consider that the average American receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year, nearly half of which ends up unopened in a landfill, according to 41pounds.org. Plus, even though total paper consumption in the U.S. has declined in recent years, Forest Ethics reports that North American paper consumption still remains a major driver of worldwide deforestation. (Aka, boo.)

The good news is, technology has made it easier than ever for you to reduce paper waste. Here are five great ways to go paperless now:

1. Manage Subscriptions

Do magazines and newspapers tend to pile up around your home? It may be time to rethink your subscriptions. Many newspapers offer digital versions of their content—just switch to an e-newspaper to reduce the amount of paper in your home. Plus, many magazines have become super mobile-friendly, and look even glossier on a tablet. You’ll cut clutter and save trees, without missing a beat.

2. Opt Out of Junk Mail

Decrease the amount of junk mail you receive by simply opting out. Opt-out services like DMA Choice or 41Pounds.org can help limit the amount of mail you receive by taking your name off of junk mail lists. Other services like Catalog Choice use a reporting system that lets users report unwanted mail. After the unwanted mail is reported, users are opted-out.

3. Head Online for Bill Pay and Statements

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service reports that identity theft is America’s fastest growing crime. In 2014, more than 9.9 million Americans were victims of identity theft, and according to the FTC, four percent of identity theft victims’ cited stolen mail as the cause. Identify theft protection service LifeLock suggests switching to paperless statements and billing to help reduce the amount of sensitive mail you receive in your mailbox. Signing up for online bill pay and statements not only makes banking accessible and helps to reduce clutter around the house, it can also help prevent identity theft by mail.

4. Go All Out for Digital

Making the switch to paperless documents can be tough when you’re used to paper filing. One handy way to get your systems in order for paperless living is to scan the important documents you already have and store them on a hard drive. Set up an organized system to label your files as you scan them. This little organizing exercise will free up a lot of space in your home, and it’ll will the way for easy integration of future e-documents. Just be sure to shred and recycle the papers after you’ve archived them digitally.

5. Ready, Set, Recycle

After you’ve committed to paperless living and have sorted through all the papers and documents in your home, be sure to recycle whatever paper you do still use. Paper mills depend on recycled paper, and recycled paper products require 40 percent less energy than wood pulp—making your recycling efforts a truly sustainable choice. Aside from sentimental things like cards and important tax documents, most paper items around the average household shouldn’t be all that hard to part with. The National Association of Professional Organizers estimates that 80 percent of mail is never looked at again after it’s seen for the first time. Just think…with a few simple steps, you can score less clutter and major green points. Go you!

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