The Paperless Office

Save money & the environment by reducing your paper use

Did you know that the average office worker in the U.S. uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper per year? And that copy paper is the most common type of office waste paper?

The good news is that Americans are now recovering 57.4 percent of the paper they consume, according to Earth911. But what role can small businesses play?

Going paperless not only de-clutters your office and reduces your storage space, it saves money, reduces your carbon footprint, helps reduce risk and can make it easier on you should the tax man come knocking on your door.

Going completely paperless is not easy, and what works for one business might not work for another. However, there are several options available to small and home-based businesses to help you reduce your paper consumption and improve your document sharing and management processes.

1) Use technology for file sharing

Instead of passing paper around, use e-mail, shared server space, electronic document management solutions, or the “group sharing” capabilities available through most home and business computer operating systems.

Use electronic fax systems instead of the traditional paper fax, and scan all essential business documents and save and store them as PDFs in a secure file system.

2) Green your record-keeping

Maintaining backed-up electronic records of key business functions not only streamlines your overall business efficiencies it also protects you against risk factors such as burglary, employee theft and other disasters.  Roughly 40 to 60 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster – so good records management is a must to ensure you can get up and running as seamlessly as possible should the worst occur.

Electronic record-keeping can also help you maintain a strong audit trail in the event of an IRS audit—no more shoebox record-keeping!

Documents to back-up an electronic management system include payroll records, invoices, customer lists, tax documents, expense receipts and so on.

If you are a sole-proprietor or micro-business, it is still important to back-up all your file data and maintain electronic records of expense receipts, business cards, contractual documents and invoices.

Invest in a basic electronic scanner and scan all your critical documents on a weekly basis and back them up to an external hard-drive and shared electronic workspace, if you have one.

3) Reduce the volume of paper that you receive in the mail

Turn to paperless online bill-pay to reduce the amount of billing statements you receive in the mail. And reduce junk mail by opting out of mailing lists at http://www.donotmail.org.

4) Reduce paper by modifying your printer settings

In the home office or at work one very quick way to reduce paper surplus is to modify your printer settings to print duplex (double-sided) and save ink by using the “fast-draft” print option.

5) Recycle copy paper

But do not just install a recycling bin and hope everyone starts using it. Put rules around which documents can and can’t be recycled and communicate your goals and parameters to employees. For more tips, visit Earth911.com.

6) Raise awareness among Employees

Whatever measures you choose to take, make sure you clearly communicate your goals to your employees and equip them with the tools and information that can help them play their part too. Take advantage of these downloadable tip cards and workplace posters from Energy Star’s “Bring Your Green to Work” program to help spread the word about achieving a greener workplace.

Additional Resources

SBA’s Green Business Guide – Tools and resources that help businesses expand and grow while saving energy costs.

Stephen Morris is online media coordinator for the U.S. Small Business Administration where he manages digital outreach to the small business community.

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Meadowlands USA

Meadowlands USA

Meadowlands USA is a North Jersey regional publication that reaches people who live and work in and around the Meadowlands (including the Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Passaic County corridor), as well as visitors to our region. The blog edition is updated regularly and the print edition is released six times a year.

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