Venues & Theatres > Paper

Paper Use Reduction

Rethinking the way your theatre organization buys and uses paper helps trim the bottom line and can generate positive publicity. Follow the tips below to reduce your theatre’s office paper use, and visit NRDC’s Paper Project for more detailed information and tools to help reduce office paper use.

Also, consider joining the EPA’s free WasteWise program, which provides members with several benefits, including a technical assistance team that will help your organization conduct a waste audit and reduce waste.

For a useful discussion of waste reduction, see the EPA’s Reduce, Reuse, Recycle webpages. For information on paper recycling, see the Recycling section of this guide.

Calculate environmental benefits of recycled paper.

Reducing Paper Use Saves Money

A typical office disposes of about 350 pounds of wastepaper per employee per year. Identifying ways to reduce paper use can save money.

In 2005, the EPA Region 10 offices (in the Northwest U.S.) made a concerted effort to reduce paper use. Through a variety of initiatives including default double-sided printing and collection of scrap paper for reuse, the office reduced paper consumption by 30%, yielding an annual savings of $49,000.

Between 2000 and 2004, Bank of America reduced its paper consumption dramatically through an institution-wide campaign of online reports and forms, email, double-sided copying and lighter-weight papers. By reducing the basis weight of its ATM receipts from 20 pounds to 15 pounds, Bank of America saved more than just paper; this simple move also gained the bank additional savings in transportation, storage and handling costs, to the tune of $500,000 a year.  Paper used for internal operations decreased 32%, saving more than a billion sheets of paper. A cost cut of $20,000 was made on a single report, by sending out postcards notifying clients that it was available online. By making forms available online instead of sending out hard copies, the company saved an estimated $10 million, not including the savings in postage and storage.

Smart Paper Practices Toolkit

Sample Memo for Developing a Smart Paper Plan – Get senior management on board with your organization’s plan to rethink paper use in the office.

Office Paper Use Questionnaire – Use this questionnaire to assess current practices in your office and find out where there’s room to improve.

Paper Reduction Worksheet – Start off with simple paper reduction strategies like these. Edit the spreadsheet and add your own strategies to create a customized plan for your office.

Sample Signs – NRDC’s New York eco-committee created these signs to help its New York office follow the new guidelines.

Sample Paper Procurement Policy – NRDC worked with a major printing company to develop these guidelines, which it now uses as procurement guidelines.

Paper Supply Verification Form – Use this form to find out if your supplier is providing your organization with environmentally friendly paper.

Paper Use Reduction Tips

» Communications

  • Subject to your organization’s email policies, use e-mail instead of paper memos or faxes whenever practical to distribute agendas, newsletters, audition information and meeting materials online.
  • Don’t print e-mails. Put the words “save a tree, don’t print me” at the bottom of all emails.
  • Print less: keep mailing lists current, and don’t overprint copies or outside print jobs.
  • Reuse what you can. Stock your fax machine with paper already printed on one side; reuse oversize envelopes and boxes; use one-sided “draft” paper in your printers.

» Ticketing

  • Use a lighter ticket stock and purchase materials made from recycled content.
  • Use electronic ticketing where feasible. Consider using a paperless online ticketing system and electronic ticketing on smart phones to reduce paper purchasing and waste from ticketing.

» Printers and Copiers

  • As printers and copiers need to be replaced, purchase units that can print on both sides of a sheet of paper. Then set all computers and copiers to a default setting for double-sided printing.
  • Save and collect 8.5 x 11 inch paper that’s been printed on one side, restack it neatly, designate a paper drawer on each printer (or as many printers as practical), and use it to print drafts.
  • Adjust the house style on word processing programs to use a slightly smaller font and slightly wider margins; use the electronic “edit” and “comment” features to work on drafts instead of printing.

» Incoming Mail

  • Cut down on the number of periodical subscriptions you buy. Survey to see who subscribes to what, then work out a sharing system.
  • Reduce the amount of unwanted mail your organization receives by unsubscribing or requesting to be removed from generic mailing lists.

» Bathrooms

  • Use coreless toilet paper rolls (and purchase recycled content bathroom tissue).
  • Use paper towel dispensers that release single sheets instead of continuous supply, or high-efficiency hand dryers.

» Office Kitchens

  • Stock the kitchen with real mugs, plates, bowls and utensils to discourage the use of paper and plastic disposables. Consider cloth napkins or use paper towels with high post-consumer recycled content.
  • Encourage employees who carry in lunches to use reusable bags and napkins. Consider providing theatre-branded bags for staff to use.

Additional Resources

  • NRDC Paper Project
  • Environmental Paper Network
  • Minnesota Guide to Source Reduction
  • A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry
  • EPA – WasteWise


Paper Purchasing

Environmentally preferable paper products can often be purchased at little or no increase in cost. In addition, paper use can often be decreased by taking a few simple steps, such as double-siding copies and reducing the number of printers in use. These measures can reduce your organization’s overall paper budget.

Contact your venue’s paper suppliers and ask about environmentally preferable alternatives to the paper products that you are currently buying, including paper used in offices, print collateral, ticketing, bathroom tissue, and concessions. The specifications below provide a useful guide when speaking to suppliers.

In addition to the specifications below, consult NRDC’s Shopper’s Guide to Home Tissue Products for a complete listing of preferable household tissue products. Conservatree’s Environmental Paper Listings also contains several preferable options for a range of different paper types. Also consult the EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Database, which contains product specifications and contract language for a wide variety of additional products.

Calculate environmental benefits of recycled paper.
Sample contract language – copy paper.
Sample contract language – all paper products.

Paper Products Specifications

  • Highest feasible percentage of post-consumer recycled content
  • Chlorine-free bleaching process
  • Wood fiber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
  • Mercury-free pulping process

For more detailed paper procurement specifications, see this sample procurement policy.

Sample Letter To Current Suppliers

Dear _______,

In an effort to improve the environmental performance of our organization, we would like to meet to discuss the environmental attributes of the paper products that you are currently supplying. We would also like to discuss ways to cost-effectively switch to more environmentally preferable products within the next few years.

We are aware that the worldwide demand for paper products creates incentives for harvesting and manufacturing practices that are harmful to the environment. We would like to improve, as much as possible, the environmental performance of our paper consumption. We are particularly interested in improving the following attributes of the paper we buy:

  • Post-consumer recycled content
  • Forest Stewardship Council certification
  • Chlorine-free bleaching processes
  • Mercury-free pulping process

We look forward to speaking with you about this. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Benefits Of Purchasing Environmentally Preferable Paper

The manufacture of virgin paper contributes to global warming, water pollution and is linked with the loss of forests and hazardous air pollution. By purchasing paper products made with recycled fiber, chlorine-free bleaching, and Forest Stewardship Council-certified tree fiber, you help to reduce these impacts. Paper made with recycled content produces significantly less air and water pollution, disrupts less habitat, and uses less energy than paper made from virgin fibers.

Additional Resources

  • NRDC – Paper Resources
  • Shopper’s Guide to Home Tissue Products
  • Environmental Paper Network
  • EPA – Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines
  • A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry
  • Conservatree’s Environmental Paper Listings