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6 Tips for Going Green and Reducing Risk with a Paperless Office

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6 Tips for Going Green and Reducing Risk with a Paperless Office

By Stephen Morris, SBA Official
Published: June 23, 2011 Updated: April 30, 2012


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 (source*). 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 isn’t 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.

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.

These two articles from Anita Campbell of SmallBizTrends.com specifically point to technology tools that can help you cost-efficiently streamline and “green” your business operations:

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’s 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.

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*.

Reduce Paper by Modifying You 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.

Recycle Copy Paper

But don’t 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 Paper Recycling at Work*.

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.

Related Articles

*Note: Hyperlink directs reader to non-government website.

About the Author:

Stephen Morris

SBA Official

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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Everyone really needs to green nowadays. The future generations will thank us for our efforts.
The internet certainly has enabled much more communication that does not use actual paper, although many people print out emails and file them, so the benefits need to be enhanced through education. With the advent of iPads and other technology, perhaps things could be improved even more. Fortunately, technology should improve these things over time. The problem is real. Most paper use in business could be eliminated if things were planned properly.
The Internet has had an automatic benefit in that it has reduced the amount of paper in circulation. This is seen not only in the amount of paper that comes through the mail but also newspaper subscribers are down in numbers as a result of the World Wide Web. All this has had a positive effect on keeping things green. So this fact coupled with the excellent tips that Steve gave us in the article above, providing people implement them, should go a long way in helping the "green effect".

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