Did you know that Americans use more paper than anyone else in the world?
- The U.S. consumes about 31.5 million tons of printing and writing paper yearly, which equals 660 pounds per capita
- As of the early 2000’s, the U.S. was using over x6 more paper than the world average, and about 25% more than Japan, the world’s second-largest per capita paper consumer
And if you’re wondering what that has to do with environmental concerns, here are a few even more disturbing facts to think about:
- 4 billion trees are cut down every year for paper and paperboard production
- Producing one ton of new paper requires 2 to 3.5 tons of wood, which translates into an average of 28 to 49 trees
- Paper consumption has become 4x higher in the past four decades
- The global paper industry accounts for 296 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, making up 0.6% of the world’s total
- It takes about 5 liters of water to produce one piece of A4 paper
Each ton of paper that we don’t use for printing saves about 20 trees, 7,000 kWh of electricity, and 5,000 liters of water.MAPFRE
Why recycling is not an option
According to The World Counts, 50% of all waste businesses produce is paper. And in terms of recycling, paper is relatively harmless compared to other forms of waste, such as plastic.
Indeed, recycling saves trees from being cut down and prevents waste from occupying landfills and producing poisonous compounds as it breaks down. Recent research suggests that paper recycling requires 28–60% less energy than making new paper with virgin fiber because most of the energy is consumed when pulping virgin fiber raw materials.
However, even if properly recycled, office waste still poses a danger to the environment because of de-inking – the industrial process of removing printing ink from recycled paper fibers to make de-inked pulp. De-inking is a major source of emissions due to the chemicals released into the created effluent. However, using enzymes to de-ink paper pulp in recent years has reduced the dirt count by 32.60%.
Why going paperless costs nothing and saves everything
Paper is robbing us of our productivity. The average employee uses more than 10,000 sheets of paper per year. As of 2023, the average costs associated with physical paper are around 32 cents per document and $27 per document if sent elsewhere. If you add in the cost of ink, toner, energy, and time spent on searching for documents, manually filling them out, and printing, the cost increases significantly.
The average cost per document page can reach $30, depending on the signing method. This does not include any of the costs associated with replacing documents, correcting errors, and other pitfalls in the signing process. These are the most costly aspects of any signing transaction.
Almost any paper-based workflow carries a potential threat to data security. Also, it should be taken into account that nearly 15% of all business documents are lost, with up to one-third of an organization’s time being spent on trying to recreate them.
An average employee will spend up to 40 hours per year searching for lost documents which equals almost a full workweek. At the national average hourly wage of $27 (Trading Economics, 2022), this is an actual lost cost of over $1,080 per employee per year.
Steps to paperless office success
Let’s see what it means to implement a paperless strategy in your office and what practical benefits are behind it:
- Scan every piece of paper you can find in your office. When you scan and electronically save all your paper forms, you protect thousands of critical documents from being lost, stolen, or damaged due to a natural disaster. We hope you scan AND recycle them.
- Find a digital document management platform to store your documents. An average digital document management platform costs less than one-fifth of its paper-based counterpart. This also plays a significant role in sheltering sensitive documents, preventing disorder, and helping you avoid data loss.
- Streamline your business workflow by implementing electronic signature policies. Electronic signatures reduce document turnaround time by 80%. Using the right eSignature solution helps you close more deals in less time, make approvals in a matter of seconds, and make signing easy for customers.
Even if you try out just one or two of these suggestions, you’ll help Mother Earth big time. Besides, your sustainable business approach will speak well for your entire company. So prove yourself a socially responsible and solid business player strong enough to inspire change through your example.
How signNow’s eSignature solution helps organizations eliminate physical paperwork and save the planet
Zionsville Eyecare wanted to reduce its overall carbon footprint by allowing patients to complete forms online before their visits.
Challenges before using signNow:
❌ Excessive spending on printing and copying patient forms
❌ Hours spent on repetitive tasks like printing, scanning, and storing paperwork
❌ Manual HIPAA compliance checks for all medical records
Results achieved with signNow:
✅ Reduced paper costs by going digital with signNow
✅ Provided faster service and shorter wait times to their patients
✅ Eliminated document errors and ensured HIPAA compliance
Using signNow, we feel the savings mostly in the time aspect. Reduction in labor hours previously spent on printing and scanning multiple documents during and after the patients’ visits is enormous! Also, we LOVE Kiosk Mode! It made our office life so much easier!— Alicia,
IT Project Manager at Zionsville Eyecare
Originally published in April 2019 and updated for comprehensiveness in April 2023