It’s one of the easiest ways to make a positive impact on the environment: making all your records completely electronic.
Going paperless is just the way of the times. It doesn’t mean you need to shell out for a Kindle or iPad either but rather, just make a one-time adjustment to everyday life. In fact, you’re probably already half way there – many companies have already sending their customers e-bills to cut down on costs (and charging those who want to keep receiving paper, by the way).
So that means you can save money (also on printers and cartridges), time (online check-in and boarding passes) and space (less clutter and mess) by doing away with paper. Not to mention, it’s a good move for Mother Nature as half the world’s forests have already been lost. And eighty percent of what is left is seriously degraded. That’s why tentree is trying to help by planting trees around the world and educating people about the dark reality of deforestation.
While a totally paper-free world may be unrealistic (think of all the shopping bags and napkins), we could all cut down. So here are a few steps on how to lessen your own consumption by going paperless:
Use the cloud
To take the plunge, you’re going to need some serious digital space. Chances are your laptop is probably already loaded up (and bogged down) with extra files. An online cloud is really the best way to keep important documents close by without sacrificing precious gigabytes. The file hosting service Dropbox is a cheap and easy option, but you can also pay for something like eFile Cabinet Online that will also take care of organization. With any cloud, space is always limited (also according to what you’re willing to pay, of course) so upload only the most important files that you need to be accessible from anywhere online. Quick tip: Don’t worry about safety. Sending files via cloud is more secure than via email, thanks to data encryption and other security features.
Use a hard drive for everything else.
For that extra backlog of files that you still want to hang onto – we’re talking invoices from years ago and photos of your worst high school haircut – make sure you’ve got a sturdy external hard drive. Hard disks and USB sticks are cheaper than ever these days, and your local storage could probably use some tidying too. There are also now hard disks with Network-Attached Storage (NAS) so that files can be accessed by other devices via your home network (TVs, mobile phones, etc.) or online exactly like a cloud.
Don’t underestimate the first step.
The hardest part will always be those initial days of getting set up. You may have to spend a few tedious hours on hold with companies switching to online billing, sorting through boxes of scraps and scanning. Don’t sweat it, as it will all be worth it in the long run when everything is available with the click of a button.
Scan and recycle
This is your new mantra. Make electronic copies of everything you want to keep, and “blue bin” what you don’t. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, keep track of how much paper you saved in the long run and let yourself feel awesome about that number.
Create a system
Don’t, don’t, don’t just scan everything and dump it all into a big folder. You will hate yourself later. Create a naming system for everything, with lots of specific folders by date, year and subject. Rather than rummage through a fat stack of sheets, you’ll now find everything in 10 seconds flat!