Photo: Recycle less paper

Use less paper. Recycle less paper. (Credit: net_efekt via Flickr)

Your local coffee shop is now recycling paper cups. Nice!
But really, we should all just be using—and recycling—less paper.

It's easy to slip into the recycling-bin habit. At my house, the kids' art piles up and while I can't justify stifling their creativity, I cringe every time I move one of those mountains to the recycling bin!

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There are other easy ways curb paper recycling:

  • Ask sales staff not to print receipts — you'll also avoid BPA.
  • Bank and pay bills online — even cheques can be avoided with money transfers.
  • Opt out of the phone book — it's like a tree branch landing in your recycling bin!
  • Rid yourself of ad mail — put a No Junk-Mail Please note on your mailbox
  • Get news online — it's the same information as in print!
  • Resurrect the hanky — paper-free nose blowing is possible!
  • Purchase with less packaging. — do those socks really need to be wrapped around cardboard?
  • Carry a commuter mug — no paper cup, nothing to recycle.

An overflowing recycling bin is better than an overflowing garbage can. But the primary waste challenge is to make less waste, not just deal with it more responsibly.

Most municipalities in Canada ship their recycling to far-off processing plants. Many paper products, for example, end up overseas. Whatever its destination, there's another whole set of environmental costs associated with turning old paper into new products.

The more we use, the more we tax the environment — even when we recycle.

Most of us waste some paper. But before you throw it in the recycling bin, be sure you've used it at least twice. Envelopes make great notepaper. Egg cartons are perfect for starting seeds. Magazines are fun for kid crafts.

And whenever possible, skip the paper and recycle less!

Share your tips to minimize paper waste for a chance to win a signed David Suzuki Foundation T-shirt. Just in time for the holidays...

Tovah Paglaro, a fellow Queen of Green

November 20, 2012

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May 21, 2015
4:56 AM

Save used stamps off your mail instead of binning things — help reduce landfill, and help out charities as well. Charities can make great use of collected postage stamps from all over the world, common and rare, to fundraise, by selling them on to philatelists and collectors. Please, visit our website today to find a charity that you would like to support. The website is updated monthly, and new charities are welcome to be added to the list as well.: Each charity is listed with the address to send donations to, and the date that they last confirmed their details, so that you know how up to date the listing is. We are a free, volunteer run directory. We make no money or profit from doing this.and are simply posting to help spread the word. To add your charity, please send us the name of the charity, a postal address for donations to be sent to, and a few words about what your charity does. Don’t forget to re-confirm with us monthly so that your charity appears near the top of the list.

Mar 26, 2014
2:14 AM

Now day’s paper cup recycling became a big issue. Normal people also implement recycling of paper for their personal use.

Sep 22, 2013
4:41 PM

Re: Rid yourself of ad mail — put a No Junk-Mail Please note on your mailbox

I know you mean well but this puts the people who are paid to deliver in a bad situation. Your Letter Carrier could be fired for not leaving second class mail that has been paid to be delivered by a deadline. The local newspaper person is being paid 6 cents a paper to deliver your paper and ads. Please don’t make it their problem.They just want to finish their route and get home out of the elements. I know people who have worked at both only to be harassed while trying to do their jobs.

Aug 02, 2013
6:20 AM

Great post. Over the years I’ve ordered dozens of catalogs that were printed with less than expected quality, some being downright scrappy. A couple months ago my company in Hobe Sound FL, printed some catalogs with PCA Delta and they were great. I’ve been printing with them ever since. They show care for the environment by using soy based inks, plus recycled papers are available upon request. If you need items printed on recycled paper go to I strongly recommend them.

Jan 02, 2013
5:13 PM

i am SO aware of the paper thing, i have d/c my delivery of the newspaper which was PAINFUL because i loved to ‘read’ the paper in the morning.

-i get my magazine fix from the internet or library

-i dont buy books anymore — again read online or borrow from library

-if i DO print something i make sure i use BOTH sides of the page

-i am the editor of my co-op housing newsletter and offer a small ‘gift’ to subscribers who elect to recieve their copy by email………

little steps for sure, but they ALL ADD UP!


Dec 13, 2012
5:07 PM

Don’t print out what you don’t need (pdfs, receipts, itineraries, boarding cards, etc). If you have an electronic device that can handle it, use that instead. Most pdfs can be marked up just like paper copies (highlighting, notes, etc) and you likely already have the software -get a friend to show you how to use it. Plus you can search it later and it is far quicker and it takes very little physical room to store.

Of the paper that you do get, ask for FSC certified paper with high recycled content or even the new straw based paper.

Dec 12, 2012
9:20 PM

I use old newspaper to line my compost bin and then recycle it after I empty the compost.

Dec 12, 2012
4:55 PM

Working in an office, there is an undeniable, and seemingly unavoidable, degree of paper that is printed, looked at, and discarded. Taking those papers, cutting them in four quarters and stapling them together makes for perfectly sized note pads for phone messages or shopping lists! Looking at the other entries, this is a popular tip… Just goes to show what a great idea it is!!

Dec 12, 2012
12:33 PM

Thanks for the great tips. Trying hard to do everything I can to reduce. You have made me realise cancel the paper trail I get from the back. This will be my resolution for this month !!! Merry christmas

Dec 12, 2012
11:48 AM

Our office partners with some of the local schools. They sort out the good, one sided paper for us and we use it in our office for some of our printing. It is great to give someone a brochure (printed 4 on a page) and it has part of a word search or coloured picture on the back. It is a win/win for everyone.

Dec 12, 2012
11:43 AM

At our office we reuse paper for internal use, i.e. print on the back of paper that’s already been used on one side. We have a handy stamp that says, “ignore this side — reuse paper”. We regularly contact the school board, our members, etc. to get paper too. We’re also very cognisant of only printing off the amount of papers we need — no extras!

Dec 08, 2012
3:13 PM

I always recycle old envelopes for taking messages on the phone, writing grocery lists, taking notes.

Dec 07, 2012
10:27 AM

At our office, we have begun monitoring printer usage by presenting graphs and reports. We have encouraged staff to print on both sides as much as possible! It is shocking to see how much paper waste we produce! Seeing the actual numbers made me more conscious for sure

Dec 06, 2012
9:33 AM

I’ve set the shared office photocopier/printer to automatically double side — for everyone without their consent! My work computer has an onscreen sticky note feature that I use for reminders instead of using paper sticky notes.

Toilet paper is an item not mentioned in your article — I am sure we can all ‘trim our waste’ by using at least one less square for each trip to the toilet. Kind of like the hanky, I am sure the ‘eww’ factor keeps people from being conservative with this one.

Any advertising self addressed envelopes that come in the mail at home get used for any snail mail that I actually send.

Dec 06, 2012
9:07 AM

We print on both sides of paper and when possible buy printer paper from recycled paper. I take reusable bags to the liquor store and ask them not to use the paper bags when putting bottles in the bags (just make sure you carry them gingerly home). If I have a choice when purchasing I pick the item with less packaging. My friends and I do buy books but we make sure we pass them around and then donate to libraries or hospitals. We do have a “no junk mail” sign on our door.

Dec 05, 2012
11:15 PM

I am a very successful recycler but I am always up for a challenge to find new and better ways. I had a stray cat adopt me over seven years ago and she firmly believes in living outside all the time. For the winter time I have made a reusable pad cover that I stuff with crumpled paper that is from notes, newspapers etc. It keeps her warm and keeps fresh smelling for her. When comes time to change out the paper, off it goes to the recycle bin. In the summer the “used” paper is shredded and is mulched into my garden instead of the recycle bin.

Dec 05, 2012
9:06 PM

All around our school (in classrooms, pods, photocopier room) we have bins labelled “GOOS” — Good On One Side. This is the paper we use 90% of the time in class, and I use it if am doing any single-sided copying. This cuts the amount of paper in the recycling bin by at least half. VERY easy to implement and well worth it — give it a try!

Dec 05, 2012
4:12 PM

someone should go after Canada Post, I receive maybe one letter a month and every day my mailbox is full of junk.

I live in an apartment building, I receive the same flyers 3 or 4 times a week.

Dec 05, 2012
1:39 PM

I don’t purchase magazine subscriptions. I do have one that’s been purchased for me as a gift — but I read that one every month. I choose not to purchase any magazine or newspaper subscriptions because I find at least 1/2 of it is never read.Then, they pile up and just get chucked in the recycling bin. So, if I really must have that issue — I will purchase a single issue if I can’t get the info online.

Also, when there’s a computer error and it puts those weird widgets at the top of each page and now the paper isn’t able to be “used”, the department held that paper and donated it to the daycare or others would bring it home for the children to use, or keep it for test printing.

In my current workplace, old forms, documents, etc. are sent to the in-house printer and turned into scratch/note pads.

I also really like the new online billing offered by most companies today! If it’s an option, I immediately sign-up for it!

Nov 29, 2012
10:10 PM

I am a fiend for scrap paper at the office. I collect anything singlesided and non-confidential and put it back into the printer, or cut it in half then fold again and staple in the middle for use as a notebook.

Nov 23, 2012
7:02 AM

I take all my notes with my iPad now… Which works better anyway, because I don't lose all those little scraps of paper anymore!

I review all my work on-screen, rather than printing it and then reviewing it on paper.

I've gone back through my old boxes of printed work, and now I print on the back of them whenever I do need to print something.

I always reformat with smaller font, narrower margins, etc. before printing, so I use fewer pages.

When a sheet has been fully used, I keep it to use as weed barrier in my flower gardens. Just use stacks of ten sheets or so under mulch, and voila, no weeds!

I've switched to online banking, email Interac transfers, and have opted out of all ad mail.

And that's only a few measures to reduce paper. Our household only puts out a small bag of garbage every two weeks, and a recycling bin as well. It's possible to greatly cut back on materials used, with a bit of effort and willingness!

Nov 22, 2012
1:32 PM

I wish the town newspaper wasn't automatically delivered everyday, it was great for bedding when I had rats, but now they just pile up

Nov 22, 2012
1:21 PM

Hi Queen of Green,

My tip to reduce paper use is at work our Green Team purchased reusable mugs and got staff to trade in a disposal cup for a chance to win a reusable mug. It was symbolic and we had fun talking to staff in the lobby hallway. Together we can save a forest.


Nov 22, 2012
1:06 PM

Aside from already doing all the things you have listed above, my wife and I stack any used printer paper etc and then cut it into thirds, hole punch it and put binder rings through it to create note pads. It took about two years to hone our habits to the point that we might fill a large garbage bag once a year with unrecyclables which is mostly comprised of the occasional styrofoam tray or cup from guests and ourselves or items found on the sidewalks and roads. The lifestyle change is totally worth it but the hardest part was and still is avoiding soft plastic. It is ubiquitous in our society. When you separate your recyclables into soft/hard plastics, aluminium, tin, glass you become very aware of your consumption habits especially if you live any distance from recycling facilities as you have to clean plastic that has been in contact with food so it does become a smelly health hazard when you go to take it in. We found that purchasing our groceries with a Rubbermaid bin allows us to avoid putting everything in a plastic bag. When we get home we put our greens in a "green bag" which keeps those greens longer without spoilage thereby saving us money. Baking Soda and vinegar are our household cleaners.

Nov 21, 2012
4:22 PM

Our office has a box beside the printer and all misprinted pages get reused, cut into 1/4 page size and assembled as note pads.

Nov 21, 2012
4:13 PM

I've been sporting the hanky for a while, I would love it if the trend caught on so people don't think I'm so strange!

Nov 21, 2012
3:53 PM

Get books from the library instead of buying new. Take part in a book exchange if you just have to have the smell of a new book. I am a teacher so I encourage students to send me their projects on-line where possible. I reuse their scantron cards for different tests. But, it's a tough battle to cut down on the amount of paper I see go over my desk in a year. Just keep trying, I guess!

Nov 21, 2012
3:23 PM

I never select "yes" when the atm asks if I would like a receipt, all my banking in done online (no paper bills or statements). Me and the kids use scraps from whatever paper is about to end up in the blue bin for book marks, grocery lists, chore lists and so on. My oldest is getting a kit to make homemade paper for Christmas (to be used for bday/holiday cards and crafts) so that will also be a fun way to cut down on waste.

Nov 21, 2012
1:48 PM

I started making my daily to do lists on a white erase board. Saving me daily use of notepad paper that I was losing half the time anyways!

Nov 21, 2012
1:45 PM

If paper is created at your home or office that is used only on one side, collect it and use it for note paper. You can even get it bound together if you want.

Nov 21, 2012
1:09 PM

I do use a commuter cup for my daily coffee. Its a bonus at work to as there are far fewer spills. In addition to your great ideas you can add

Nov 21, 2012
12:12 PM

I have put the no junk mail ad on my mail box for about 5 years now and it works great.

I also asked my bank, credit card company and phone company to send bills and statements through email. I also pay my bills online as well.

You can also get your tax credits from the government directly deposited into your bank account as well.

Being a crafter, I like to use magazine ads to create envelopes for handmade Christmas or birthday cards

Another thing my family does is wrap our gifts in newspaper, in another part of the gift such as a scarf or reuse old gift bags, to reduce gift wrap at Christmas or birthdays as well as saving money!

Those are all my paper saving tips!

Nov 21, 2012
11:38 AM

We try to buy used or arrange to swap items with friends to avoid having to deal with the packaging for new items. One thing I wish was more prevalent was the ability to bring old bottles into the store to get refilled. You can purchase some product refills, but their packaging is also pretty crappy (and in most cases, not-recyclable) and ends up in the landfill.

Nov 21, 2012
11:14 AM

I am looking for ways to reduce the meat trays in my garbage. What can I do?!? (I know the logical answer here is being vegetarian, but while I was for a long time, it isn't right for me and my family at the moment)

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