Coffee cups, milk cartons, and toilet paper—oh my!
Paper is everywhere, and we can’t deny our lives wouldn’t be the same without it.
While paper is incredibly useful, it can also have its drawbacks (paper straws only last so long!) and environmental impacts.
Today we’ve compiled a list of 50 ways you can go paperless in your daily routine, but first…
Why should you go paperless?
Here are some of our top reasons why you should go paperless:
- Did you know a single sheet of paper requires between 2 to 13 liters of fresh water to produce? Or that paper makes up 50% of the waste thrown away by businesses? Going paperless will help you shrink your carbon footprint.
- A paper-free workspace is cleaner and more organized. Swap your physical documents for digital ones and you’ll find yourself with more space on your desk and less clutter to sort through. You’ll thank us later!
- Have you ever tried to refund something and realized you’d lost your receipt? Or rifled through stacks of business cards looking for a client’s contact information? Paper can easily be damaged or misplaced. But digital is forever!
- There is no CTRL+F in real life—meaning you can’t use a search function on a physical document. If you’ve ever scanned a page looking for the exact text you need, you’ve definitely wished this was possible.
- Wrinkled paper looks untidy and unprofessional. But you can’t crease a PDF!
Best 50 ideas on how to go paperless
- Always ask for a digital receipt before the cashier or sales associate rings up your order. Many retailers now offer emailed receipts, and with your unique Shoeboxed email address, you’ll never have to compromise your privacy.
- E-sign your documents without printing anything out. Most PDF readers offer both handwritten and digital signature features. Many companies also use services like DocuSign to request signatures on documents.
- Remove paper clutter by scanning your receipts with the Shoeboxed Receipt Tracker. Simply snap a photo of any receipt with your phone’s camera and voila—it will be instantly digitized and uploaded to your Shoeboxed account.
- Change your magazine and newspaper subscriptions from home delivery to online access only.
- Sign up for monthly paperless billing for all vendors that offer it, such as your Internet provider and power company.
- Move beyond receipts and begin scanning everything—in your Shoeboxed account, you can digitize and organize everything from business cards to bank statements. Take a look at how Shoeboxed works as a receipt scanner for business receipts.
- Collaborate with colleagues using Google Workspace instead of editing paper copies. You can see edits made in real-time and always revert back to previous versions of the document.
- Digitize your entire wallet and leave the plastic at home. Most mobile phones come with built-in wallet apps that store everything from plane tickets to credit cards.
- Pay your employees with Gusto and skip the paper paycheck.
- Include your home and business addresses on as many Do Not Mail lists as possible.
- Download the smartphone app for your airline, and skip the boarding pass printout when you travel.
- Instead of paper tickets, use Eventbrite’s online ticketing service to attend and create events. Imagine attending a completely paperless conference where thousands of people were able to check in and get a receipt, all without a single scrap of paper!
- Replace the paper towels in your office with cloth towels.
- Grab a tablet and skip the bookstore. Save trees and precious office space when you opt for the digital versions of your favorite books.
- Double-check that your paperless billing option is truly paperless—are you still getting those annoying “This is not a bill” statements each month? Contact your service provider and request that all correspondence be electronic only.
- Replace Post-It notes with whiteboards.
- Or, make notes to yourself using a note-taking app like Evernote.
- If your Kindle just isn’t cutting it, go paperless by visiting your local library. You’ll get to enjoy the weight of a real book in your hands, while Mother Earth will enjoy a greener planet.
- Toss receipts and paper clutter in the Shoeboxed Magic Envelope and watch as your office goes from “hot mess” to “no stress”!
- Take a picture of important documents that you might need access to when traveling.
- Skip the hard copy—you probably don’t need it. Unless we’re talking about the deed to your house or car, a digital copy of your document will almost always suffice, even when it comes to your income taxes.
- Back up your data on the cloud using apps like Dropbox so you always have an “extra copy” without having to print any documents or photos. This also helps you go paperless by allowing you to store more of your documents in the cloud as opposed to your computer’s desktop or your actual desktop.
- Go paperless by scanning old photos and paper memorabilia that are collecting dust in your closets or spare bedroom. You can keep the memories alive by using an online digital scrapbook.
- When purchasing electronics, recycle the included paper manual and download a PDF manual from the manufacturer’s website.
- Use Dropbox to store and share documents online.
- Opt out of prescreened credit card offers by visiting OptOutPrescreen.com.
- Shred old documents that may contain personal information, then be sure to recycle the paper leftovers.
- Purchase recycled toilet tissue for your office bathroom.
- If you’re thinking of doing a direct mail marketing campaign, opt for an email blast instead. You can still create the design effect of an old-fashioned postcard without going through the hassle and expense of a paper printout.
- Instead of printing, go paperless by creating a PDF document and storing it in the cloud.
- Store your medical records online with services like PocketHealth. Manage your records and those of your family without having to search for paper records or locate them within your home.
- Convert your old journals, diaries, and idea-filled notebooks into a blog or digital documents. You can scan each page and hire a freelance transcriber to type everything up. Once you’ve created this digital diary, you can add to it at sites like Live Journal or WordPress.
- Use Todoist to manage your monster to-do list, and skip the legal pad. You can create themed lists and categories, and it’s really fun to check off each item and see it move to the bottom of the page within the application—you feel like you’re getting a lot done (and you are!).
- If you’re a Microsoft user, OneDrive allows you to save all of your documents within a single application, and work with Excel, Word, or PowerPoint right from your smartphone.
- Choose the print to PDF option when you find yourself wanting to print or save emails. You can also simply star the emails you’d like to save, label them, and/or archive them.
- If you have sensitive documents that you’d like to store online, you can create an encrypted document that is password protected.
- Go paperless in every department—even the accounting department—with Xero. If you’re a small business owner, Xero’s easy interface makes sharing your finances with your accountant a breeze. Connect all of your bank accounts, allow your employees and clients to see real time updates, manage payments and invoices, and create gorgeous financial reports.
- Use Nitro to edit PDF documents and convert PDFs to other file formats. PDFs are the last frontier in the fight to go paperless—make your changes online and skip the print out!
- Use the Shoeboxed Receipt and Mileage Tracker for iOS or Android to stay paperless on the go. When you launch the application, your phone’s camera will be poised and ready to snap a picture of your receipt. From there, your document is instantly beamed to your Shoeboxed account, where it is digitized, categorized and ready to be edited if need be.
- Remove all pens and pencils from your workspace, and while you’re at it, remove all notebooks and pads as well! If there is no paper around, you’ll be forced to jot down notes, appointments and ideas within the online application of your choice.
- When in doubt, take a picture—if you’re unsure about whether or not to save a receipt, photo, or personal memento, snap a photo of both sides before tossing it in the recycle bin. If the item is financial in nature, you’ll have an IRS-approved digital document ready to go. If it’s personal, you’ll still be able to enjoy the memory without contributing to paper clutter.
- Replace waiting room magazines and newspapers with eReaders and tablets—or simply mount a TV on the wall. If you don’t want to pay for a cable network connection, you can simply purchase a streaming device like Chromecast and cast videos from a mobile device.
- Use electronic business cards, and digitize your existing paper business cards.
- Start your morning with a reusable tumbler full of coffee instead of a disposable cup.
- Faxing may seem obsolete, but believe it or not, you may run into clients and vendors who still rely on the good old fax machine! Switch to online faxing and eliminate the need for a physical document.
- Reuse the other sides of existing paper documents—both in your printer and for note-taking.
- Use a digital invoicing app like Square, which also offers a number of digital payment solutions such as point-of-sale devices and payment processing.
- For those who love the pen and paper feel, try using a reusable notebook like the Rocketbook. They are fully reusable, wipe clean with a water and cloth, and you can use their app to scan your notes directly into your favorite cloud service.
- Utilize online paystub services like Sage and encourage employees to have their paychecks directly deposited into their accounts rather than receiving physical checks each pay.
- Instead of buying new storage containers, reuse cardboard boxes to hold items you’re storing away. They may not be as aesthetically pleasing, but they’re more cost-effective and work just as well!
What are some resources for paperless organization tips?
We know there’s an overwhelming number of paperless organizing resources available online—it’s almost impossible to know where to start!
For those looking for a more comprehensive guide, check out this one by Clutter Keeper. If you’re interested in using Google Workspace to reduce paper and improve your team’s productivity, we also recommend checking out some of the tips they shared here.
There are a lot of great videos on YouTube that you can use to get your paperless journey started. For example, we love this guide for paperless filing:
What is the best scanner to go paperless?
If you prefer a physical scanner, check out this video by YouTuber “Home Organizing by Alejandra.tv.” She has an entire mini-series of videos dedicated to reducing paper clutter, including this one reviewing her favorite scanner:
If you want a more compact approach to avoid taking up unnecessary desk space, Shoeboxed offers a great receipt and document scanning app that can turn any document—from receipts to invoices—into a digital format. The app also offers a transcription service using optical character recognition (OCR) so that you can easily search your documents for information.
You might like: The Ultimate Receipt Organization & Management Resource
Where can I find more ideas for going paperless at home?
Reducing paper at home can be a difficult task. Households go through tons of paper waste. If you walk through your house, you’ll without a doubt find paper products in every room! Going paperless at home can seem intimidating at first, but have no fear. There are plenty of resources out there to help.
We recommend searching for content that is specifically tailored to the paper-saving strategies you’ll use. For example, this video shows 6 tips to stop using paper towels.
Also, check out this article that lists 30 ways to use less paper at home.
Frequently asked questions
1. Move all of your data to the cloud.
2. Digitize your receipts and documents using a scanning app like Shoeboxed.
3. Use digital signature apps like DocuSign.
4. Invoice your clients digitally using apps like Square.
5. Ask your employees to receive their paychecks through direct deposit.
1. My Paperless Filing System, The Goodness Margin
2. Top 10 tips to go paperless, Google Workspace Learning Center
3. 10 Top Tools to Help You Go Paperless, Shoeboxed
4. 6 Simple Ways to Streamline Your Office Space, Shoeboxed
5. 12 Steps to Build a Second Brain, Forte Labs
Originally published June 24, 2013. Updated on August 25, 2022.
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You can stuff your receipts into one of our Magic Envelopes (prepaid postage within the US). Use our receipt app (iPhone, iPad and Android) to snap a picture while on the go. Auto-import receipts from Gmail. Or forward a receipt to your designated Shoeboxed email address.
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