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Green practice: On the paper trail

Every Issue

Cite as: September 2014 88 (09) LIJ, p.78

Law firms can limit paper consumption by setting goals.

In recent times there has been a shift towards law firms going paperless. While some paper may be necessary, law firms can set goals to limit paper consumption and it may be easier than you think.

Did you know that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year? This equates to 4 million tons of paper used annually (http://mashable.com/2014/04/22/earth-day-paper-infographic).

The life-cycle of one ton of office paper, from production to recycling, results in the release of about nine tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)-equivalent gases, which contributes to global climate change, as well as other air and water pollutants.1

There are many reasons why this green initiative is attractive to law firms looking to cut expenses, reduce their carbon footprint and promote social responsibility.

To join the green revolution firms could start implementing some of the following tips to reduce paper consumption in the workplace.

Print responsibly

Preview documents before printing. Use the print preview to spot formatting errors and blank pages before you print.

If you must print a document, print only the pages you need.

Always use double-sided copying and printing, at least for drafts and internal documents. Print on recycled paper.

Use a single space format for the text of final documents when possible. Print drafts in a smaller font with narrower margins. Simply changing the default margins can reduce the amount of paper you use by up to 8 per cent.

Use space-efficient fonts such as Times New Roman.

Reduce consumption

Send fewer paper copies to clients, counsel and other parties. For handouts in meetings and presentations, provide one copy for several readers rather than multiple copies.

Order supplies in bulk to minimise packaging waste. Return empty boxes and packaging to your supplier or reuse or recyle them.

Go digital

Use tools such as “tracked changes” or other revision software to edit documents on screen.

Use email instead of printed inter-office memos, mail or faxes. Use overhead projectors, white boards and presentation software instead of paper handouts.

Share firm newsletters and other information electronically instead of mailing paper copies. Order supplies by email.

File documents electronically in your firm, the courts and wherever else possible.

Recycle office paper. If your office does not recycle, start a recycling office paper program. Buy recycled-content paper.

By implementing environmentally friendly practices at your law firm, you not only help the environment, you can reduce costs and boost the bottom line.


CLAIRE WALCZAK is an associate at Nicholes Family Lawyers and co-chair of the community issues committee.

1. ABA-EPA Law Office Climate Challenge Waste Wise program.

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