Why I Can’t Go Entirely Paperless

Why I Can’t Go Entirely Paperless

In 2018 I started on a massive mission to decrease my paper use.

You can read more about it here The Struggle to Be Paperless.

I have gotten rid of a lot of paper and I am still getting rid of more. I’m even reading and selling my books, not all of them, but a lot of them.

I’ve stopped using paper towels and plastic bags. I am trying to lower my environmental footprint.

But I am now accepting that I cannot be entirely digital.

Recently I posted a video on IGTV about my lack of self-expression and creative action. Balance is hard for everyone and sometimes the solution isn’t exactly what you were originally aiming for.

I wanted to find ways to do EVERYTHING on my laptop, tablet or phone to be entirely paperless and have less impact on the environment.

Sadly, this just isn’t possible for me.

It’s not just a lack of self-expression that I’m suffering from, it’s an inability to disconnect.

This has stifled my creativity.

In the online world there is information, entertainment, and opportunities to connect everywhere. As you know, this is overwhelming.

The bombardment of “stuff” is everywhere, and we can’t escape…unless we disconnect.

Everyone else’s business and life in our faces causes us to compare, become jealous, get off track, and lose our originality.

There are a ton of people out there on social media who openly take breaks to disconnect and escape in order to move forward in their business and life.

Disconnection opens us up to self-discovery, clarity, and brings us back to who we truly are without the noise of other people’s lives to confuse us.

What Does This Mean for Paper?

This means that we may need to go back to writing things by hand. *gasp*

I have always wanted to learn how to draw. For this I need paper.

Does this make me irresponsible and destructive?

Not if I make wise choices.

  1. Buy recycled paper (and other) products.
  2. Recycled paper is usually labelled as such and you can find many dedicated companies/makers who sell recycled products.

    Green Line Paper is one as well as ten thousand villages and some makers on etsy.

  3. Only print what’s necessary and use the tablet or phone to view prompts for reflection instead of printing them out.
  4. Just don’t get distracted and use the device for anything but reading what you need.

    I have even started to only get a new book if it’s an ebook and use my tablet to read it, instead of adding more paper to consumer demands and my life.

    If you use Adobe Reader for PDFs or a dedicated reader like Kindle you can highlight and bookmark without worrying about bended corners or messed up pages too.

    When it’s necessary to print something will be totally up to you and your life. But be sure to have criteria and think twice before going from digital to print.

  5. Shred (when needed) and recycle paper when done with it. Scan your written papers into Evernote to be able to find them with keyword searches.
  6. Evernote has been awesome for me to scan things like pages from magazines that I want to keep and writing that I want to easily find and reference.

    For important documents or documents with your or other people’s personal information you should shred them after scanning. There are places that handle sensitive information documents by scanning and securely removing them. Or if you’re not paranoid you can just recycled the shreds.

    Otherwise, once something is scanned in, I toss it in recycling.

  7. Use all the space on the page instead of starting a new page for every thought. Why not use doodles as dividers between content?!
  8. I used to be soooo bad at starting new thoughts and ideas on new pages. But then I wasn’t typing them up after.
    Now that I am, I might just put a line in between them. As I’m learning to doodle, I may now try something a bit fancier and more therapeutic.

    I know that some people absolutely love their post it notes but think about how many you need versus a piece of paper and perhaps you could skip the sticky little sheets in favour of a tree saving recycled piece of plain printer paper with squares to separate notes instead.

  9. Use what you already have before buying anything new. Don’t be a hoarder!
  10. There is never a shortage of recycled paper products or office supplies.


    There is an abundance of these things.

    There is no need for you to buy 10 at once and have them sit around collecting dust until you get around to using them. Unless you are going to use them within the month.

    I get the allure of sales. Honest.

    But I also know what it’s like to have a bad mould allergy that sits in dust and to have family who had their home filled with smoke and now has to clean up every.single.little.thing.

    So, buy recycled paper products just as you need them and not by the case to sit around waiting for you.

Balance is everything.

Just like I need to balance my time between devices and self-expression/creative times, I also need to balance my use of paper and other not-so-environmentally-friendly products.

All things in moderation and be mindful of what you buy and how you impact the planet, not just the people in your every day life.

It wasn’t too hard of a pill to swallow when I realized that I couldn’t be entirely paperless.

I have a lot of unused paper products here still and I simply knew that it meant being more conscious of how, when, and why I used and bought paper products.

Being a conscious consumer is something to be proud of.

Are you on a journey to lessen your environmental footprint?

The Struggle to Go Paperless

The Struggle to Go Paperless

Some links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I will make a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase via an affiliate link in my post.

Affiliate links are marked with an “(Affiliate link)” beside the link.

Going paperless is something I have thought about off and on for a few years.

The piles of printed training materials and handwritten notes just seem to grow and grow and grow.

A few months ago, I had a big turning point in my life and realized that I wanted to get rid of a lot of my stuff and prepare to have a freedom lifestyle.

I have been shredding and recycling, scanning, and typing ever since.

However, this isn’t an easy task.

The world has already lost 80% of its forests and we’re continually losing them at a rate of 375 km2 per day!

The World Counts

1. The Rules of going paper free

There are some things that you need to keep.

Taxes from the past 7 years, items of sentimental value, hard copies of things such as contracts, receipts for upcoming taxes, and so on.

Although sometimes things like photographs can be scanned and kept digitally anyways, that’s up to you.

Some people also scan their receipts and perhaps you could also scan the hard copies and taxes but that’s up to legal rules where you live and what you are comfortable with.

NOTE: Remember to shred anything you don’t need any more that has personal information – either yours or someone else’s.

At the current rate of deforestation, 5-10% of tropical forest species will become extinct every decade.

The World Counts

2. The tools

There are a few tools I use for going paper-free:

Evernote (affiliate link) is a popular tool for those going paper free. When I first started looking into this concept I found a ton of people who have already used Evernote to successfully complete the paper free goal.

You can find YouTube videos, articles, guides, and more all dedicated to going paperless with Evernote (affiliate link).

Here are some references:

I recommend upgrading to the business version of Evernote (affiliate link) instead of sticking with the free, so you can access it on all your devices and have greater capabilities.

Once you have the tools that you need you can get to sorting your papers.

NOTE: You should also consider a system backup option such as iDrive to ensure that even if your system crashes or a file doesn’t save properly in Evernote or your digital file system, that it isn’t lost.

Lessening of paper usage was predicted due to the electronic revolution. It didn’t happen. Demand for paper is expected to double before 2030.

The World Counts

3. The method

So how does it work?

Make piles.

I have a pile of notes to type up, a pile of stuff to scan and shred, and a pile of printed PDFs to see if I have them in my computer still then I can just recycle them.

Your piles will differ based on the type of papers you have around.

You will likely find that you have kept papers that can just go straight into recycling and that will feel awesome as you get rid of them.

I suggest that you pick the pile that’s easiest to complete first so you can clear out some stuff and feel great about it!

Others may choose to start with the hardest pile to get it over with.

The process will entirely depend on you.

In Evernote (affiliate link) you can tag and title your documents and find them via the search tool. Yes, even PDFs are searchable by the text that’s in them.

You can organize both in Evernote (affiliate link) and your digital file system (such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or your native file system but that’s not backed up) in much the same way on the surface.

You create a file for the type of documents you want to save, in Evernote (affiliate link), this would be a notebook.

Then you create subfolders but in Evernote (affiliate link), you just create notes in the notebook you created or notebooks within stacks and then notes in the notebooks.

In your digital file system, you can only search based on the title of the document whereas in Evernote (affiliate link) you can search based on text in the note as well as tags that you assign to the note.

I’m sure you can see how these systems each have their benefits.

You can find templates for Evernote (affiliate link) or files such as word documents to help make the process easier to continue using as well.

Why it’s so hard (for me)

Going paperless will be easier for some than others, naturally.

I tend to be more visual. I’ve even gone so far as to have a wall calendar.

I also prefer to write out notes and reminders by hand, so I can check them off or cross them out as I go. This does have challenges though, so I’ve taken to writing things out by hand then typing them up.

The switch to less paper really comes down to changing our habits above all else. The tools are there and constantly improving and often available for free.

What exceptions I make

I tried very hard to create a bullet journal in Evernote (affiliate link) and this is absolutely do-able, but not for me.

I really needed to write things down by hand, so I caved and went back to a physical bullet journal for to-do lists and reminders.

I do create a monthly calendar in my bullet journal but I’m also trying to use Google calendar more and more for reminders, particularly for things that are recurring like bills and birthdays (I’m so bad at remembering those!).

Can you go paperless?

You can go paperless but find the way that works for you.

We all learn and retain information in our own way so why would that be any different with your everyday life?!

If writing something by hand works best for you then look at using recycled or scrap paper and typing it up for easier reference in Evernote (affiliate link) once the paper is full.

If you prefer a tool like OneNote instead of Evernote, then find what works for you.

For to do lists you may prefer tools such as Trello (I love this for blog post ideas and processes), Asana (more business oriented), Wunderlist, or even a checklist in Evernote (affiliate link).

For a comparison of Evernote, Trello and Asana you can read my blog post Evernote, Trello, and Asana – which one is for you?

There are a lot of tools out there so if Evernote (affiliate link) doesn’t work for you, you will find something that does.

Think of how much lighter you will feel when you have less paper collecting dust and taking up space and all of your thoughts and information at your fingertips?!

Paper pollution is another effect of paper waste and it’s a serious problem. It is estimated that by 2020, paper mills will be producing 500,000,000 tons of paper and paperboard each year! We obviously need this product and a reduction of use is not in the horizon. Pulp and paper is the 3rd largest industrial polluter of air, water and soil. Chlorine-based bleaches are used during production which results in toxic materials being released into our water, air and soil. When paper rots, it emits methane gas which is 25 times more toxic than CO2.

The World Counts

Not convincing enough?

Every tree makes enough oxygen for 3 people to breath but to print the Sunday edition of the New York Times it takes 75,000 trees.

The demand for paper was expected to decrease with the rise of technology but unfortunately, it’s still growing.

If we can even reduce our daily paper usage a little bit then we can save a tree and slow deforestation.

Do you have a paperless tip? Let me know in the comments.

If you found this post useful please share it with your friends and family via social media or email.