We’re all hippies. We all want to save the planet, have world peace and solve world hunger. These are big issues, but we can have some small impact on each. How? Being nice to people will have a knock-on effect – BAM! World peace; don’t order or buy to much food when you shop or go out – BAM! Leaving food for others. But what about saving the planet? Here I want to share some ideas on how to use less paper, and as paper comes from trees, save more trees, and what do trees do? Well, that’s a question for a tree person, but they are important.
Going paperless sounds easy. After all, how much paper do you actually use at home or at work? It can’t be that much, right? Wrong. You use paper much, much more than you realise. There’s bills that come in, the shopping list you’ve jotted down, manuals on how to work your TV and DVD, receipts (how I loathe paper receipts), contracts and invoices, and the list goes on.
Here, then, are 3 ways that you can start to use today to cut down on the amount of paper you have laying around in the kitchen, on your desk and buried in a filing cabinet.
1. Switch to PDFs
Many businesses today give you the opportunity to receive bills and alerts via email. If the companies you deal with do this, then get on board! For me, I was most relieved when my bank statements were available as eStatements (PDF). I used to scan the occasional paper statement and save it, but having the statement already available as a crystal clear PDF is a huge timesaver. Today I receive PDF eBills for my phone, the bank, utilities and more, and I love it! These document are normally delivered straight to your inbox. Then, as I’ve written about earlier you can have them fed directly into Evernote.
2. Scan and Destroy
There are some things that you just won’t be able to receive as a PDF. Medical receipts and tax information are good examples. These are documents you really need to hold on to, but, if you’re anything like me, if it’s a piece of paper, then it’s as good as lost. When you get your hands on one of these types of things, it’s time to scan them.
You can use any old scanner to do this. After all, you’re not scanning photos, it’s just text. Most scanning tools today give you the option to scan as an image or a PDF. I tend to go with PDF for documents. While I use a big old multifunction printer/scanner, I would highly recommend grabbing a portable scanner. The beauty of a portable scanner is that you can take it with you anywhere and many of them will scan straight to a USB flash drive. What does that mean to you? Well, you can grab you scanner, take it to the kitchen counter and start to digitize all those loose pieces of paper, without being anywhere near a computer. Then, when you’re all done, just take the USB drive to your computer and copy the documents across. I recommend the Doxie Go scanner available from Amazon. The awesome thing about this scanner is that it also integrates with Evernote!
Once you’ve scanned whatever it is you’re scanning, you can toss the paper into the recycling bin – nice job on saving the planet!
3. Type, don’t write
Notes and ideas are often jotted down on loose pieces of paper, the back of envelopes, and napkins. It’s time for a new habit. There are a whole swag of note taking applications for smart phones today - Evernote, Springpad Catch, ProjectBook. I’ve been using Evernote for a few years now and I no longer write things down. I think that even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to read my own writing. So, everything, absolutely everything that I need to get down on “paper”, I get down onto an Evernote. It’s so easy. Out comes the phone, Evernote gets launched then it’s one tap to create a new note. After bashing away at the tiny keyboard I have my note saved, readable and safe. I’m able to then reference that note from anywhere and at any time. Using a phone or tablet to jot down your notes also means you don’t have to go hunting for that elusive pen that you remember seeing, but is never where you think it should be.
Keep them Safe!
Apart from saving the planet, going paperless means that your documents are readily available. From your computer you can even search through everything to find the document you’re looking for – trying doing that with a filing cabinet! There are two ways I recommend to keep your documents safe.
The first is Dropbox. Dropbox adds a new folder to your computer and it works just like any other folder – you save files and create sub-folders. But, every file and folder inside the Dropbox folder is securely synchronised up to the Dropbox cloud storage service (which actually uses Amazon’s services), it’s a backup without having to worry about running a backup.
The other option is Evernote. I’ve mentioned Evernote a few times in this post already, but it’s worth clarifying “why”. Not only can Evernote be used to create new text notes, but you can also store documents within these notes. And, if they’re PDF documents or images, they will display within the note, so you won’t even have to open the file in a separate application. The other big benefit of using Evernote to store documents is that it will let you search for text within these files! So, from the one search box, you can search through all your text notes, but also look for any matching text in PDF files and images. Pretty powerful stuff.
Oh yeah, both Dropbox and Evernote are available as smart phone apps, so you will also be able to view your files from your phone, anywhere, anytime. How awesome is that!
Going paperless can be a challenge, but it’s rewarding. You’ll end up with a lot less clutter lying around and you’ll be able to very easily find anything, at any time. Granted some paper is essential – especially for those warranties that require you to hold on to an old faded receipt for 2 years – but, for the most part you can do away with a lot of the excess paper waste. You should scan those warranties too, just to be safe.
Have you already gone paper less? What was your experience like? If you’re yet to go paperless, would you now give it a try? What’s holding you back? Let me know in the comments, I’m happy to help.