How to Go Paperless: 8 Ways

Why should you go paperless? Is it even possible? The short answer, yes but it’s very difficult. With some diligence and flexibility to change your old ways, you can have a pretty big impact.

Let’s assume that you’re over the whole ‘go green’ initiative since recycling placates your conscience and the whales are safe, thanks to Drew Barrymore and that guy from The Office.  The environmental effects of going paperless will be secondary to the impact on your bottom line.  The more important and better question is: How much can you save by going paperless?

Consider these stats from industry experts:

  • Paper not only costs the environment, but using paper over digital records can really hurt your wallet: The associated cost of printing, copying, postage, storing, and recycling can be as much as 31 times the purchase price of paper.
  • The average office worker uses way too much paper – around 10,000 sheets in a year. To put that into context 10,000 sheets of paper weighs about 100 pounds and stacked would stand just over 4 feet.
  • Like your filing cabinet? After you read this you probably won’t anymore: A 4-drawer filing cabinet costs about $25,000 to fill and $2,000 per year to maintain.

It’s easy to see how we could all benefit from less paper and more organization in our lives, therefore I put together a list of my favorite tools anyone can use to go paperless (or at least limit the amount of paper you are currently using) and how these tools can help you achieve paperless Zen at home or at work.

1. Paperless Billing Options

It may not seem like much to switch from your traditional paper bills but the impact can be huge. Electronic billing options are way easier to keep track of and provide a lot more value than their paper counterparts. The benefits include being able to receive auto reminders, paying bills on time while avoiding penalties, and saving on postage.

2. Online Bill Pay Services and Electronic Payments

If you’re still using your old checkbook, it’s time to ditch it and start using electronic payments. Outside of using your banks online bill pay there are online bill pay services that allow a secure account to pay all your bills in one place. There are a variety of different options but the best free one is My Check Free from FiServe. This eliminates check purchases, postage costs, allows same day or auto payments, and provides better overall payment tracking. For more options check out this article, The Best Bill Pay Services.

3. Scan Old Documents

Not only will you have less in your file cabinet (or on your desk if you’re the messy type) you’ll be able to find all your data a lot faster, given you actually take the time to come up with a naming and storage method.

Using a scanner with auto-feeder you can remove paper clutter by digitizing paper files, save space, eliminate file cabinets, eliminate folders, find documents faster, and easily e-mail documents. There are tons of options out there but here are some good one to consider based on your needs.

For home or small based businesses an economical light duty scanner will do the trick. Here are a couple options that are reasonably priced and get the job done are the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 and the NeatDesk. If you’re in a high-volume, office environment then you’ll want to go with a professional high-volume scanner like a Panasonic workgroup scanner or an Epson WorkForce Pro.

4. Online Storage and Document Apps

Once you’ve got your documents scanned in its best to put them into an online storage or document application like Drop Box or Google Docs. Once upload you can take your documents on the road for access anywhere anytime and easily share them with co-workers, family or friends. You also prevent the possibility losing all the valuable data if your hard drive hits the fritz, and as an added bonus there a lot easier to search for!

5. E-signing Documents

If you’re going paperless for a business might be thinking “We’ll what about all my contracts and legal documents? I need a way to get them signed still.” Well fear not as there are E-signing solutions like DocuSign, so you’ll be able to avoid paper even when you need to sign off on contracts and legal documents. You can securely send documents and acquire signatures while reducing travel and courier expenses too. Nice right?

6. Document Management Systems

If all of the options above still don’t cut it, you’re probably pretty crazy about going paperless, so a document management system (also known as ECM) is your best option. These systems can capture information from a variety sources like your scanner or even many office products like MS Office, account systems etc. and create a document database that can index a whole variety of information. On top of that many systems include distribution controls and workflows so processes that involve documents can be visualized and tracked.

The ball is in your court

Now that you’ve read through some of the solutions I’ve used to go paperless, it’s time you use some of this arsenal for your own betterment.

Have more tools I didn’t mention? Share your tools and tips in the comments.


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Gerad Hoyt is a marketing consultant, paperless advocate and document management blogger.


  1. Allan on the 24th February

    I think it’s important to mention evernote. THE application to remember everything. You just e-mail what you want to your personnal evernote e-mail address and you are done. Really useful !

  2. Jonathan Haye on the 25th February

    I try to do as much as I can online and avoid using unnecessary paper as much as I can – but I have to confess I’m a Post-It addict!

  3. Tim Ngwena on the 26th February

    It think an important thing to note is the reason why people print out documents. More often than not it’s because of the security of seeing it infront of you as well as being able to htake it with you on the go, so an addition to the tips alongside developing systems is investing in the hardware e.g. tablets or mobile devices that tap into the points above.

  4. David Campbell on the 27th February

    In construction, we use Tradies and Defects App.
    All the information is recorded and emailed off in PDF format.
    Cant get much better than that!

  5. Jestep on the 28th February

    Using an electronic fax system is huge. Many businesses still rely on faxed documents. efax is one, but there are others including some larger business appropriate ones like trustfax. This was our biggest hurdle to going paperless. We’re not 100% there, but have reduced about 98%. We went from a few cases of paper per week to a case every 3 – 6 months or so.

  6. Nils Koch on the 1st March

    In times of companies thinking more about Corporate Social Responsibility and going green it is necessary to at least try to go paperless. Using the Apps you mentioned is not only the beginning, but it has to start in the heads of the people.
    You gave some nice examples how to go paperless, but in times of tablets and smartphones the possibilities to do so become bigger almost every day. The younger generations that grow up with the new technology should integrate it to their daily life. Apart from going green everyone should consider how much space can be used for other stuff, no matter if it’s a private person or a company (Cost savings).

  7. Andy Jolls on the 7th March

    Paperless is a downgrade. At least your physical mailbox is push and doesn’t require you to remember your 20 different usernames and passwords and force you to pull the documents for your records . Plus, retention policies are usual bound by 12 – 18 months. These are the problems we are taking on with the Digital Postal Mail service. Your bills are pushed in PDF form and saved forever for free.

  8. pat white on the 20th April

    Love the tips, but I only count 6 ways to go paperless. Where is 7 & 8 exactly?

  9. Ivy on the 29th April

    Today, environmental awareness become a important issue. People use paper cause a lot of problem. For instance, deforestation led to animal extinction. Therefore, how to go paperless become important issue. This article recommend us some way to go paperless, but I think energy saving, recycling and reuse the resources is the basic way to reduce pollution in our environment.

  10. John Winthrop on the 15th May

    Has anyone considered the cost of digging up coal, transporting it in fossil-fueled based trucks on roads that need maintenance, to take it and process it, in order to generate the electricity? The “stuff” released into the air or water? How about stripping mountaintops to get to the coal-or the black ling coal miners are exposed to (not to mention death/injury)? Or the having to dispose of computers, tablets etc., and their toxic chemicals? What of lithium batteries, to power our e-devices-how is that extracted, and at what cost?And all that recharging-wait, electricity is needed, no?

    In addition, what of the costs involved in: newer and better and faster electronic equipment that one has to constantly buy/rent/lease (“iPad, no wait, a year later it’s iPad 2-hang on, we’re at iPad 3”) or the cost of cloud storage (where are these massive servers located, anyway? In land that was already in use, or untouched land that has to be dug up, cleared, etc)?

    Just asking.

  11. John Winthrop on the 15th May

    In my partially paperless office, I can’t recommend Devonthink highly enough!

  12. Lisa D. on the 1st July

    School systems also use a LOT of paper for both administrative and instructional purposes. On the administrative side, think about printed policy manuals and handouts or “packets” for board meetings and the thousands of other meetings held each year. What about paper used to create and distribute planning documents. Some districts are starting to use dropbox and google docs. Others are using subscription based tools like eBOARD from eBOARDsolutions to manage administrative work that needs to have internal and public views.

  13. kweku arthur on the 11th July

    the word paperless can’t be deleted completly fom our minds but we can minimize the use of paper.
    i first heard going paperless on click a program on BBC.
    WE in West Africa our forests are being destroyed all in the names of education!(paper)
    i will be pleased if africans will embrace this technology and spend a few pesewas on it because is cheaper than going 100% paper.

  14. sean on the 12th July

    I was recently looking for paperless forms online and came across a handful of options. I located a site and was able to recreate my paper forms and send them to my android device. I am also able to add photos to the form.
    So far I am testing 5 forms and seems to be working well.

  15. Lesia on the 30th August

    For my banking and important documents I use ExactScan Pro which has OCR (text recognition) already built it and many other functions to downsize files etc. With OCR i can find any file i need among hundreds of scanned earlier files in few seconds, even 5 – 7 years later. I do not like paper archives, producing dust and destroying trees, ok, that may not be the biggest issue on earth, still i hope we move more to paperless work.

  16. Ian on the 3rd October

    thanks for the article.

    i use PaperKarma on my iPhone to unsubscribe from mailing lists i never asked to be put on in the first place, and MaxEmail ( to send and receive faxes via email, which – combined with the drag-and-droppable graphic of my signature that i keep stashed on my computer – can eliminate paper altogether from my end of the faxing transaction.

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