The arrival of a “paperless future” has been predicted for decades, yet the average American still uses more than 700 pounds of paper every year. Even as the information technology revolution has transformed the way companies operate, most office workers still print 10,000 pages annually, which amasses to a total of 12 trillion pages each and every year.

This heavy reliance on paper has its downsides in lost productivity, but the negative impact to the environment is even greater. Here’s why.

Relying so heavily on paper has consequences in terms of productivity and workplace efficiency, but most critically it places a heavy burden on the environment. At Ripcord, we work hard to ensure that the workplaces of the future can be paper-free. Consequently, it is a part of our mission to cultivate an understanding of the environmental impact of paper in the workplace, both internally and externally.

The Environmental Cost of Paper Waste

Paper mills and production facilities are the third-largest polluters of the environment, and consume more than 4 billion trees across the globe every year. This accounts for more than 35 percent of the total worldwide timber harvest, and destroys the potential to naturally sequester more than 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year–20 billion tons each decade.

When combined with the fossil fuel footprint required to produce paper, this indicates that a significant portion of the globe’s annual CO2 outlay is dedicated solely to producing paper products.

How Offices Can Cut the Production Process Short

When it comes to reducing an office’s paper-related carbon footprint, there’s good news: 70 percent of the paper production process happens before the timber is converted to pulp, so using recycled paper has only 30 percent of the environmental impact compared to virgin paper goods.

The savings to the environment are significant and immediate, with every ton of recycled paper saving 7,000 gallons of water, 17 trees and 4,100 kW of electricity, along with preventing 60 pounds of pollutants from entering the atmosphere.

Even worse, a significant portion of paper is never used at all, leading to one billion trees worth of paper being tossed out every year, comprising enough biomass and energy to heat 50 million homes for 20 years.

Responsible Usage With Paper Shredding

By shredding and recycling paper, American workplaces can significantly reduce their carbon footprint, since every ton of paper that’s recycled instead of thrown out is equivalent to 167 showers and enough oxygen to support 34 people for a year.

By shortcutting the production process and instituting efficiency standards in the workplace, American offices can use paper responsibly while still minimizing their environmental impact.

A business that doesn’t shred its documents for recycling is needlessly inflating its environmental footprint. Become part of the solution by shredding and recycling as much of your office paper as you can.