Ever since the days of “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute,” the environmental movement has found ways to include children in the campaign to clean up our Earth. Reducing paper use is one of the easiest and most visible activities young children can understand and participate in.
Besides teaching your students about the value of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, saving paper in your childcare center means you save money and a few thousand trees. Below are some ways to save paper in your childcare center beyond using found paper objects in art activities.
The biggest way to save paper comes from reducing how much paper you use in the first place. Often, you may not realize how many documents, supplies, and crafts your business goes through each month. Your first step is to perform an audit, so you know where you start and can measure your progress.
Keep track of every piece of paper used daily that is later thrown in the trash, filed, or sent home with each child. After the first week, you have a good idea of the answer. Try to audit through one billing period so you can include invoices and other paperwork generated less than daily.
Reduce Your Use
Now that you have a starting point as well as an idea of where the paper goes, you can identify areas to eliminate or reduce the amount of paper used. Here are some actions you can take to eliminate use of excess paper:
- Develop a policy and goal to promote electronic media and adopt paper-reduction requirements.
- Set all printers and copiers to double-sided printing and copying.
- Centralize your purchasing to reduce unnecessary paper purchases.
- Optimize paper ordering by tracking paper use.
- Use a PA system or human couriers to convey messages.
- Store electronic documents instead of paper.
- If you still use fax, switch to paperless delivery and receipt.
Much of your paper use is due to the need to procure and file documentation and to communicate with parents. Switching to a childcare management solution with online registration, parent portal, email, text, and document storage capabilities will eliminate a significant portion of the paper needed to run your business.
You may not get rid of every piece of paper, but you may be able to reuse a portion that must be printed. For example, if you routinely use forms or documents with print on a single side, use the other side for draft printing or notepaper.
Create a centralized material exchange, and encourage staff and students to add unwanted paper and other items that still have practical value. Others can use the materials as they wish. An excellent place for a reuse box is near every printer and copier, where you generate most of your paper use.
Here are some additional ideas:
- Reuse file folders by folding them in reverse or placing new labels over the old ones.
- Adopt a policy of labeling folders in pencil for short-term use, then erase and reuse.
- Reuse envelopes for internal mail or filing.
- Reuse cardboard boxes for storage or packing other materials for delivery.
Some agencies still require faxed documents, although the practice is fading. Fill the fax machine with paper that has been used on one side and print your fax on the other.
If you have a printer you use for single-use, one-sided documents, fill it with paper already printed on a single side. Alternatively, create small stacks of single-sided papers and staple them together to use for notepads.
As paper items become unusable and must be thrown out, place them in a separate recycling bin. Include paper shredding as well. It’s one way you can help the world reduce the number of trees required for virgin paper.
Remind teachers to consider how recycled materials could be used in crafts and where paper scraps could be incorporated into future projects. Make recycling part of the lesson. Children are often imaginative and enthusiastic recyclers once the concept has been explained.
Put recycling bins in handy places around your facility and encourage teachers and students to use them. Classrooms, libraries, study areas, the hallway, and printer/copier stations all need a recycling bin.
When purchasing paper items, look for those made of recycled material. You can find office paper, napkins, and paper towels that use recycled paper for a portion of its makeup.
Educate and Measure
Create workshops for staff and teachers to pass along relevant information about reducing paper use. Brainstorm ideas for your own facility, not only for the children but for staff as well. Reduced paper use comes with a host of benefits you can measure to show everyone how you meet your goals:
- Measure paper use in terms of reduced purchasing and waste generation plus increased recycling and recycled content paper purchases.
- Save money with reduced paper purchases. With reduced printing also comes reduced ink and toner cartridge costs, postage, and disposal costs. Add up the total annual savings, and remember to include labor costs associated with your recycling program.
- Survey staff to determine satisfaction with the new regimen. You should find savings in storage needs, and copier and printer wear and repair.
Let everyone know that for every ton of paper and cardboard you recycle, you save enough energy to power the average home in the US for six months. That’s pretty impressive, isn’t it?
Also, you save 7,000 gallons of water and 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space. Finally, you reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a metric ton of carbon equivalent (MTCE).
This all adds up to a lot of savings, both in money and of the environment. Did you know it takes 24 trees and 90,000 liters of water just to produce a metric ton of printer paper? And that doesn’t include the electricity and petroleum products involved.
Childcare Management Software Can Help Reduce Your Reliance on Paper
A childcare management system, such as EZChildTrack, provides electronic alternatives to almost every use of paper.
- Eliminate paper printing and filing by using online registration and storing electronic versions of the documents you need.
- Stop printing invoices and bill electronically. Accept electronic payment, and you eliminate the need for paper checks, statements, receipts, and gas for trips to the bank.
- Store your bank documents as electronic files, as well.
- Communicate between staff members and clients electronically by using email, text, or posting to an online parent portal. Instead of sending notes home in a student folder, send them electronically, not only to save paper but also to ensure it actually reaches Moms and Dads.
Some educators have estimated they save between $30,000 to $50,000 spent annually on paper. While there is a cost for using electronic and digital platforms in the place of paper, the costs are still substantially lower than printing and paper costs.
You see increased efficiency, as well. Without the need to print, collate, and staple or file, your staff will have more time to spend with the children and planning future lessons.
Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Save a whole bunch of trees.