According to The Economist, the average American consumes almost eight 40-foot trees per year in paper. Even if you're not environmentally minded, reducing the amount of paper you consume has many benefits, including saving money and reducing clutter.
To help you get on the path to living a paperless lifestyle, here are six tips to consider:
Switch to paperless billing
If you're still getting paper bills in the mail, consider switching to paperless billing. Many companies, banks, and utilities offer paperless billing options. The bills will typically be in PDF format, which you access online. When the new bill is available, you'll usually get an e-mail or a text message alert. E-bills will save you from having to scan the bills yourself and shredding them.
Download PDF manuals
More and more companies are offering PDF manuals and user guides for everything from digital cameras, TVs, to furniture. If you save your manuals, find the PDF versions online, then recycle the paper ones. PDF manuals are much easier to find on your computer than trying to remember where you kept the paper manuals.
Scan your documents
Scan any paper documents that aren't available in electronic form and any old documents you've held on to. If you have a multifunction printer (all-in-one), put the scanner to good use. Many multifunction printers come with software that automatically converts your scans to PDF files. For large and frequent jobs, consider getting a multifunction printer with an automatic document feeder or a dedicated document scanner. You can also scan receipts and business cards on the go, with your smartphone.
Print to PDF
If you want to print something interesting on the Web, like this how to, save yourself some paper and ink by printing it to PDF. There are a lot of free PDF printer programs available and if you use Google Chrome, it has PDF printing built in.
Access PDFs from the cloud and on devices
Going paperless means having a lot of PDF files on your computer, but they don't all need to be locked away there. You might want to store some PDFs in the cloud, to make them more accessible. Cloud services like Dropbox, SkyDrive, and Box let you access your files from multiple devices, from almost anywhere. And if you've got a Kindle, you can always send your PDFs to your Kindle as well. As CNET's Stephen Shankland suggests, using Dropbox is a great way to view PDF files of subway maps and boarding passes.
Sign documents electronically
One of the annoyances of electronic documents is that sometimes, you actually have to print them. Documents that require signatures are one reason why. If you've got a smartphone or tablet, however, you can forgo this process by using apps designed to allow you to sign them with your finger or stylus.
That's it. Going paperless may seem like a lot of work at first, but there are plenty of benefits to make it worth the effort. If you've already gone paperless, share your experiences with us in the comments below.