Working in just about any office, you come across a lot of paper. When it's your job to produce printed pieces of work (publicity, newspapers, newsletters, etc), you can see even more paper. And you know the vast amounts of paper only serve a purpose for an hour, perhaps, or more likely a second before they're tossed—hopefully into a recycle bin.
According to the EPA, the average American consumes 700 lbs of paper every year, of that only 45% is recycled.
Sustainablity on a larger scale
To mitigate some of that eco-angst, look into more environmentally friendly printing (if you have the ability to make such decisions in your workplace). Re-nourish is a great site of resources for designers (or "regular" people) looking to print materials more sustainably.
It lists sustainable printing businesses, (for example Ecoprint, which is 100% wind-powered.) It explains how wood pulp is made into paper—and the toxic byproducts from the conventional process. The site also lists green design firms.
But what can I do?
Even if you're not a designer or looking to print large quantities of paper materials, you can find something useful on Re-nourish and perhaps integrate some of its principles into your paper-using habits.
Here's some paper-saving/reusing/rescuing ideas:
• Ever notice the insides of the envelopes from bills or important mail? They're patterned--differently. I've used these patterned pieces of paper to make cards. And they could work well for the scrappers out there.
• I collect used paper from the fax machine--the pieces with the transmission information, which only takes up, like, 2 inches. I later cut the paper down into uniform sizes and use them to make homemade notebooks.
• For those homemade notebooks, use old record albums. Or pieces of thin cardboard (that came in packaging) and then decorate.
• Shred papers with sensitive information and re-use it in place of new tissue paper when preparing a gift bag.
• Gift wrapping: Yes, there is some terrifically designed gift wrap out there. But, let's face it, it's incredibly wasteful. But you don't have to use the comics page as wrapping. I have used old maps, wallpaper samples and sewn fabric bags, which are reusable. Never underestimate using the clean side of a brown paper bag—and have fun decorating.
• Buy recycled paper for your computer printer. It's really not that much more.