Smart Shopping Helps Reduce Waste

The following are tips on how you can make better choices when you shop for your home and at the office. By Shopping Smart you automatically reduce the amount of waste created and help keep our environment healthier for future generations.

Choose Durables - They Pay Off!

Have you noticed how many disposable and single-use products there are in the marketplace today? Consider the following:

·Disposable razors

·Single serving coffee/tea cups (K-cups)

·Single-use cameras, including new single-use digital cameras                                     

·Foam/paper plates and cups; plastic forks, spoons, knives

·Disposable cleaning products, such as wipes

These products are designed to add convenience to our lives, but is the added convenience worth the extra cost?  We don’t think so.

Reduce waste, conserve resources and save money by choosing cloth shopping bags and real dishes and cups and other products that are long lasting and safe for the environment.

Additional information on the benefits of durables over disposables is available from (external link) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (external).

Pay Attention to Packaging

Packaging makes up about 30 percent of municipal solid waste. This places a burden on landfill facilities and wastes natural resources (such as minerals, forest ecosystems and water). Reduce the amount of packaging you "buy" to prevent waste and conserve resources by selecting products with less packaging.  Additional information on packaging reduction is available from the U.S. EPA (external)and (external).

Get the Most Out of What You Buy

All of the things that we buy today will eventually become waste. We can get more out of the things we purchase by choosing products wisely. When buying a new product, ask yourself

·How reliable is the product?

·How long will I need it?

·How does the warranty compare with that of similar products?

·What does it really cost (considering operation and maintenance)?

·Can the product be repaired or upgraded?

Rent or Borrow Instead of Buying

Consider renting or borrowing, instead of buying, items that you will use only infrequently. Items that are commonly available for rent include trailers, camping equipment, lawn care equipment, tables and chairs, ladders, power tools and tree-trimming equipment.




Options for reducing office paper consumption

We can all do our part to reduce waste and save resources and money in the office. A great place to start is with something that surrounds us everyday: Paper. There are several methods to reducing an office’s paper consumption.


· Reduction

· Stategies and programs



Use electrons, not trees

·Request documents electronically in PDF format. Limit the number of hard copies to the minimum required by your office.

·Scan and e-mail instead of print and copy. This is a great way to distribute multiple copies of a document. The recipient can choose whether to print the document.

·Think about those paper copies of an office notice or memo. Ask whether it can be sent by e-mail next time. Set a standard of keeping documents in your electronic files instead of your file cabinet, and print copies as little as possible.

·Let people know you prefer documents by e-mail rather than fax or hard copy.

·When sending out official documents or letters, consider sending the "cc's" by e-mail. Often the cc's do not need to be on paper



Think double sided

Double-sided copying and printing is a simple step to cut paper consumption right away and it is easy. Just set your computer to double sided under the File drop down menu - Print – Properties – Finishing Tab and check the box for “Print on both sides.” You can also check out the Web site How to Print Double Sided (external). If you need some help, ask your IT person or administrative staff. Here are double-sided ideas to consider:

·Give instructions in requests for proposals (RFPs) and other bid documents for responses to be submitted electronically and require double-sided printing. Send out RFPs via e-mail and through your employer's Web site.

·Make a two-sided request. If someone gives you a report or document that is printed single-sided, ask if they can have it done double-sided next time. Some offices allow double-sided printing of official letters on letterhead.

·Double-sided software: FinePrint (external) is software that makes it easy to print double sided and print multiple pages per page – even if you don’t have a duplex printer. FinePrint is available for individual computers as well as for servers supporting networked computers. Make sure to check with your IT staff about installation.

·Be the voice of double-sided reason. Encourage others to print double sided. Help staff learn how to double-side copy on the copier, or see if it can be an agreed default – everything that can be double-sided should be. Encourage your IT staff to help get everyone setup for default duplex printing.


More paper reduction ideas

Do not print e-mails

Have you seen the person in your office that prints every e-mail? Don’t be that person. An e-mail was born electronically – let it live that way. Organize your e-mails by creating sub folders by topic or project.

Print multiple pages on a sheet

Under Print – Properties you can print one, two, four or more pages on a single sheet of paper. This can save a lot of paper when printing out a PowerPoint presentation, for example.

Do not print blank pages

As documents are created, extra paragraph marks can sneak down and create a new blank page. Check the document completely and hit "Delete" at the end of the document to make sure you are not going to a new page.


Check your formatting. The standard on your computer is 1 to 1 ½ inch margins, which you may not really need. You can keep the font at 12 point, and decrease your margins to maximize use of the paper.

Reduce the number of office publications

Limit the number of multiple subscriptions to the same publications. Develop a routing sheet and route the issues around the unit or office. Subscribe to electronic versions if available.

Reduce junk mail

If you get unwanted catalogs or advertising mail, contact the mailer and ask them to take you off their list. The EcoLogical Mail Coalition (external)will help reduce mail coming into your office for employees who no longer work there. More ideas are available on the website of the Bay Area Junk Mail Reduction Campaign group. 

Nix the fax

You don’t have to put up with unwanted faxes! A federal rule went into effect in 2005 that made it unlawful to send an unsolicited advertisement to a fax machine without prior written permission of the recipient. For more information, or to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, visit (external).

Make notepads

Need a notepad? Put that old paper to good use. Ask the print shop to make notepads for you from your waste paper printed on one side.

Strategies and programs

Calculate your paper usage

Use an online paper calculator tool. The Environmental Defense Fund Paper Calculator (external) is a nifty little paper usage calculating tool.

Tracking paper usage and knowing if you reduced consumption

Without too much effort, one can see if paper reduction efforts have reduced consumption in two ways:

1.    A reduction in the amount of paper recycled. It may sound backward but it makes sense. The more you reuse paper or decrease the need for it the less that will end up in the recycling bin. Do a recycling audit before starting a paper prevention campaign and monitor changes several months afterwards.

2.    How often your office has to order paper. The easiest way to track using this method is if one person does all the paper ordering for the office, section or division. If this is not the case, accounts payable personnel may have the information. Imagine that your office orders 60 reams of paper every two months. If you start an aggressive paper reduction plan, your section might only need to order 50 reams every two months or 60 every three months. One can average that out over a year or per employee.

Buy recycled

If you must consume it, use paper with the highest recycled content (at least 50%). See interesting facts from Stanford University’s on-campus 5R Recycling Program about buying recycled paper (external).

Office advocate

Find a representative in your office to take suggestions, complaints and help find resources for office paper recycling. Add an item in your agency or company newsletter, or have a bulletin board with helpful suggestions.