After the EPA found a plastic hardener linked to breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes known as BPA on 40% of paper receipts, I started thinking again about going paperless. The BPA problem only matters if you accidentally eat your receipts, but with the advent of online consumerism, paperless billing, and all sorts of nifty gadgets and apps, going paperless is no longer an OCD fantasy.
If you dream of achieving a paperless nirvana, read on for some handy tips and tools.
- Start with signing up for e-statements or paperless billing. Some banks have started charging for paper statements, so avoid these fees and cut down on your incoming mail.
- Several printers or scanners come with a “print to pdf” option, allowing you to save ink and paper. There are also several free programs that you can download from the internet, like CutePDF or PrimoPDF.
- If you’re not able to invest in a scanner for digitizing important documents, go relatively low-tech by using a digital camera. A friend simply snaps a pic of the front and back of business cards to “file” them away and recycles the cardstock.
- Organize your files by including dates in the names so that the files are sorted chronologically. Evernote is a great downloadable program that allows you to capture information, whether it be a scan, typed note, or webpage. The coolest thing is that Evernote can recognize writing in saved images, allowing you to easily sort and search both text and image-based notes.
- Going as paperless as possible means backing up your computer becomes paramount. Always have at least two backups in different formats. Most people opt for using external hard drives, which are the most convenient and portable option, and CDs in case the external drive fails. Dropbox is another simple and free way to back up and sync your data across different machines and platforms. It saves your data to an online server and you can share selected files with friends.
- Don’t take going paperless too far in your quest for a Zen desk; important documents like birth certificates, deeds, marriage certificates and passports should be filed away for easy access.