Earth Week 2012 Challenges: Paperless Thursday

Day 4: Earth Week Challenge -- Paperless Thursday

From April 16-22, HuffPost Green invites you to take on one simple endeavor per day to reduce your impact on the planet. We can't extend a challenge without attempting it ourselves, so our team will tackle each goal as well and share with you the highs and lows of our experience.

CHALLENGE: Cut Paper Waste. Reduce your use of paper, adjust your printer settings and cancel junk mail subscriptions.

For today's challenge, we're encouraging our readers to reduce their paper use in a number of ways. One easy way to cut down on paper is to print less. Whether at the home or office, think twice before printing and decide if you really need a hard copy. Instead of faxing something, try scanning and emailing it.

Another way you can help to cut down on paper waste is to cancel your junk mail. CBS News offers several strategies for stopping junk mail, including visiting the sites CatalogChoice.org and DMAchoice.org.

HuffPost blogger James M. Lynch tracked his paper use over an entire day, and he wrote, "I do think that we could be a bit more mindful as a nation and reduce, even if it was just a little, the paper trail we leave each day."

When you do have to use paper, recycle what you can and look for recycled paper products with high post-consumer content. Jennifer Grayson notes that recycled toilet paper may contain trace amounts of BPA, but it is still better than the alternative. She writes, "From both an environmental and health perspective, the far graver danger is the millions of acres of forest, including old growth forest (our greatest defense against global warming) being destroyed so that we can wipe ourselves with ridges."

Today, our Green team took on the challenge of reducing paper use and waste:

Sasha: I'm already fairly paper-free. I've canceled my junk mail subscriptions, I pay my bills online and I e-filed my taxes this week. At work, the days when journalists ripped pages out of their typewriters and handed them off to an assistant who would run it down to the printer are long gone. Still, I can't quite give up paper entirely. I love making to-do lists, as the dwindling stack of Post-It notes on my desk attests. Crossing off each item one by one is satisfying in a way that hitting "delete" on a keyboard just isn't. I also take notes in a journal and print out drafts of long feature stories so I can scribble notes, cross lines out and draw arrows to indicate how sections should be reordered. Google Docs works great for a lot of article editing, but sometimes it doesn't cut it for me. But I do feel a pang of guilt every time I hit "print."

Joanna: Sometimes I jot down notes on little scraps of paper which I subsequently lose, so instead today I jotted down notes on my hand. It took a while to find something other than a Sharpie. (This is not recommended, just a personal choice). I also spent an afternoon a few months back calling up every catalogue I didn't recognize and canceling my subscriptions, reducing the amount of junk mail I receive.

James: Today, I focused on being conscious of my paper usage. Just like yesterday, I avoided drinking from any paper coffee cups. I also decided to email an old friend instead of writing a letter, and I probably won't renew a magazine subscription that's almost expired.

Jessica: Since we mostly work online in the office, I didn't think today's eco-challenge would be too hard. So instead of just not printing, I'm going to go full disclosure here and admit I went without my morning tabloid paper that I so guiltily adore. I also normally write to-do lists and little notes to myself on Post-Its, so today I just wrote them on my computer notepad instead. At least changing up my organizational routine was more difficult than going without my train-ride gossip column!

Becca: One way I think people waste paper without even thinking about it is paper towels and napkins. The other day I bought some cute "fancy" napkins from Anthropologie -- the reusable cloth ones that most people use for special occasion dinners. I can use them a few times before they get dirty, and then I'll throw them in with the rest of my dirty laundry. It saves paper towels, and they're so adorable that I never mind pulling them out. I'm pretty pleased with my stylish little green investment!

How did you do with this #EcoChallenge? Tweet us your experience and check out tweets about our other eco challenges from participants below. Scroll down for photos of our team taking on today's goals and a list of challenges for the rest of the week:

Joanna, Jess and James convince Catherine that printing her document isn't such a good idea:

Challenges for the rest of the week:

Friday: (Reusable) Bag Lunch. Bring your own lunch in reusable containers or bring the containers to your favorite take-out restaurant and pass on the plastic utensils, excess paper napkins and bags.

Saturday: Second-Hand Clothes And Products. Instead of purchasing new items, reuse and upcycle old items.

Sunday: Waste Less Water. Take shorter showers, turn the faucet off while brushing teeth, do only full loads of dishes and laundry.