Monday, October 18, 2010

There are Two Sides to the Paper

Once a year I clear out files that are out of statuette. Our office went paperless several years ago, but the hangover from pre-paperless days fills several rooms of filing cabinets. Slowly the old documents get shredded and recycled and the paper mound declines.

Going paperless does not mean we use no paper. We keep many documents in electronic format with certain working papers and signature pages kept in hardcopy. Some would say we are not fully paperless as a result. Still, if we scanned these documents into the computer and shredded the originals immediately we would still have used the original piece of paper.

Our paper usage has declined 48% from 10 years ago. We still provide a paper copy of tax returns to clients. Few ask for a pdf copy of their return and the few that do also want a paper copy and we are happy to oblige.

The shredding of old documents is spread out over several weeks. The process for this year is nearly finished. As I feed the hungry maw of the shredder I am taken aback by the amount of white I see. So many pages have only a small amount used and only one side of the page.  What a waste. The frugal accountant hates waste. Actually, it makes my blood boil.

If both sides of the paper were used I could cut paper usage by about half from current reduced levels. Paper drains the coffers by thousands each year and pushes up prices to handle this additional cost. In the past I checked into getting a printer that automatically uses both sides of the page. The cost was prohibitive and would not save much as the tax software does not support this conservative approach to paper use. At least in the past.

With new vigor I am revisiting this possibility of reducing paper usage and hence, cost. The tax software supports printing on both sides of the page now and printers that duplex print have come down in cost. I bet the cost of a duplex printer is paid for in a year. Tax returns will look smaller, but I have never been about impressing clients with thick tax returns; I am about preparing an accurate return.

Most tax offices still leave the back side of the page blank, wasting half the paper. This is a phenomenon of the wasteful United States. Americans have a habit of wasting too much. This lowers our lifestyle without any benefit. Plus we have the effort and cost of disposal. I am turning back this wasteful habit and using the whole page from now on. The investment is small and will save money.

The printer will cost several hundred dollars I estimate. With paper running over $30 a case the savings add up quick. No matter how frugal I am I always seem to find ways to reduce waste/costs more.

The effort to simplify life, reduce costs and wastes, minimize environmental impact is ongoing. The effort is small. It only requires and open mind and ready eye to spot opportunities. Besides, the landfill is full enough.

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