ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Sustainability. Breaking free from paper.

Updated on September 26, 2019
lani81 profile image

Lani has committed to the DIY process, increasing her sustainability and reducing her footprint while helping others do the same.

The Heavy Cost of Paper

The destructive effects of discarded plastics are often the most pervasive images in the pollution narrative. However, in researching the topic of paper I found many facts more disturbing than what we accept when considering plastics. While visiting the SignEasy website, I found some unsettling information. Current paper production currently consumes twice the energy needed to produce a plastic bag and requires 10 liters of water (just over four cups).

Up to 50% of the waste produced by businesses is constituted by paper which also contributes to pollution. Paper and pulp are the third largest industrial polluters of air, water, and soil. Paper manufacturers use harmful chemicals when producing paper products: discarded paper rots and releases methane gas, 25% more toxic than carbon dioxide.

Various media outlets and public service announcements have heightened U.S. sensitivities to recycling but have failed to quail American paper consumption. Unfortunately, as of 2016, the U.S. population's paper consumption has doubled over the last two decades, and at least a third of it ends up in a landfill . Perhaps the most disheartening fact is 42% of global wood harvested through deforestation is used for paper . The overwhelming majority of American paper consumption falls under business and office operations, but individual home pretty much represents the remaining 58%.

Opt-In to "Go Paperless"

Go paperless with all your personal accounts. Bills are the easiest, and consider reading some of your publications electronically. E-readers, such as Amazon's Kindle allow readers to enjoy subscriptions to their favorite newspapers and magazines. When given the option to receive documents electronically, opt-in. Retail organizations such as "The Home Depot" and many doctor's offices provide email options to receive receipts and other correspondence. When you find yourself with pieces of paper (it is often unavoidable) try to reuse/repurpose when possible.

Toilet Cloth
Toilet Cloth | Source

My First Steps

The very first step I took to reduce my paper consumption was immediately opting in to go paperless. Now, whenever I see a "Go Paperless" option for an online account, I click with an emphatic YES! Going paperless not only helps to reduce pollution and waste, but it reduces costs for the sender and the receiver and reduces necessary storage space. We all save money when we are neither buying nor storing paper.

Toilet Cloth Bucket
Toilet Cloth Bucket | Source

The next significant move I made was the removal of disposable paper products from my home. I no longer use paper towels or toilet paper, and the change was neither jarring nor uncomfortable for myself or my children. Obviously substituting paper towels for cloth towels seems easier than replacing toilet paper but it really was not. I bought all-white clothes for the kitchen, multi-colored clothes for the bathrooms and black cloth for cleaning. I cut the bathroom clothes in fourths and tried to give them a seam. I am not a seamstress, so I failed there, but fringe along the sides of toilet clothes doesn't hurt anyone or anything. I repurposed a laundry detergent bucket to store used clothes. I fill the bucket with water, and when it comes time for laundry, the contents of the bucket can go straight into the washer. Toilet cloth acts just like a cloth diapers and cleans just as well. We do not have a problem with smells or messes, and the transition has been remarkably smooth.
I must say the effects of moving to cloth had immediate rewards. First, in a family of four, we have not been able to fill a "landfill-bound" trash can in a single week. In the past, we could overflow a trash barrel days before it was to be picked up. After researching proper recycling habits and changing my relationship with paper, my family has reduced it's paper waste and paper costs. I no longer purchase Cosco sized toilet paper and paper towels. We also did away with bottled water...that helped a lot as well (less waste, less cost).

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Final Remarks

Be aware. Make yourself more aware of those times when you are acting out of comfort, convenience, and habit and make changes. Do you really need to print? Do you really need to write it down? Or, can you access the information electronically? You most likely have a smartphone of some sort. Lists can be maintained on a smartphone with many popular and functional apps., Google Tasks, Todoist, Evernote, and Wunderlist are the top five best list apps provided by Digital Trends. In addition to keeping simple lists, these apps often have other useful functions to manage and organize different aspects of daily life.



This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Lani Morris


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)