OK. So I know most business can’t go completely paperless. But chances are that your business can significantly cut down on its paper consumption (going green by contributing less to deforestation issues to save trees).If you work independently as a freelancer, chances are that you can cut down almost entirely on your printing, not only helping the environment, but saving money on ink, toner, and paper as well. This is the boat I fall into, which was easy for me as I work entirely online. Even if you don’t, you can still work towards becoming a green business by making some simple changes.
I keep all of my client files on the computer, and when I chose to go this route I also backed up all of my old print files onto my hard drive and backup discs. I can pull them up, add notes, make changes, etc. at any time without having to ink up paper or re-print new copies of something. I also find that digital files are wonderful when you’re looking for something. You can do a simple search using a tool like Google Desktop, and find what you’re looking for in a snap.
You no longer have to waste paper to receive faxes. You can use any number of fax-to-email options. People send you a fax in a traditional way, and you’ll receive the file via email (which you can digitally review or file away). In addition to helping you go green, it gives you the convenience of being able to access faxes from anywhere, such as when you’re away on a business trip.
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When I invoice clients, I do so entirely online. I’ve never mailed an invoice. I usually use online billing through my payment processor / online account, and when someone wants to pay via check or money order, I simply email them the invoice in a Word file, and save a copy to my client files on my computer.
When I do need to print something (as a writer, for example, sometimes it’s simply easier to edit from a print copy), I always try to re-use the paper – print on the reverse side the next time I have to do something similar. These kinds of projects are rare for me, but they significantly cut down on the paper I would otherwise use.
If you run a larger business than just yourself, consider recycling used paper from your employees (obviously not confidential materials though), by having them turned into note pads. I remember my old college used to do this – they’d make recycled flip note pads for the office staff and professors to use for scribbling notes. They’re great for things like to-do lists, notes, or phone messages.
With the wide variety of accounting software available, you can even keep all of your financial records on your computer instead of keeping the books in paper format.
What other things do you do to cut down on the amount of paper you’re using in your efforts to go green with your business?
This post was originally featured on June 11, 2008.