Lynnae wrote earlier this week about going paperless around the house. Using rags and washcloths instead of paper towels and wipes, cloth napkins, cloth diapers… there are so many ways to limit the use of disposable paper products (and indeed, disposable anything). My husband and I always try to make sure that we never have more than one garbage bag out on the curb on trash day. We recycle everything we can, compost all our veggie scraps, and try to stick with reusable stuff instead of disposable whenever possible.
One major change that we’ve made in the last couple years is to go almost paperless in our home office. My husband works full time from home, and I work part time from home. We used to go through a lot of paper. Insurance applications had to be printed and faxed, and we would print client info as it came in. Of course that meant that we had to spend lots of time shredding stuff every week, and storing all the paper was a hassle as well. At time went by, more and more of the insurance companies we work with started offering on line applications and downloadable info for our clients. We began encouraging on line applications, and these days about 99% of our clients complete applications without ever touching a pen to paper. Much easier, much more efficient, far fewer errors, and faster processing time. What’s not to like? Then our fax machine stopped working about two years ago, and we decided that was our motivation to really get away from using paper. Instead of replacing the fax machine, we signed up with an electronic fax service (trustfax.com) that does the whole thing through our email. We try to do everything through email anyway, but if someone insists on using fax instead, we use the e-fax. It’s $5/month, and comes with our own toll-free fax number. To send faxes, we just log onto their website, upload the document we want to fax, and put in the outgoing fax number. The website tracks the fax and provides confirmation when it goes through. It also stores everything, including uploaded documents, so that if someone needs us to refax something, it’s just a matter of a few mouse clicks. Nothing to get jammed, no paper to load – very easy. Incoming faxes simply go to our email inbox. It’s well worth the $5/month for the convenience, tracking, file storage, and paper-less nature of the whole thing. We do most of our business by email, so we just have the basic package that Trustfax offers. If you send a lot of faxes, you’d pay more, but for us, the $5 version works great.
We also stopped printing any client info. We got external hard drives as backups for our computers, and store all our encrypted files electronically. Nothing to shred, nothing to store in file cabinets, and no paper to buy. I think it’s been almost a year since we bought paper, and we still have most of the ream left. Now if only I could figure out how to opt out of corporate credit card offers and eliminate the junk mail that still flows in… (we opted out of credit card mailings for personal cards, but if anyone knows a way to staunch the flow of offers for our business, I’d love to hear about it!)