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Daily Tip: Change the Margins, Save a Forest

Green Options writer Maria Surma Manka suggested this simple tip she heard on NPR: change the margins of the documents you print, and save lots of paper. Smaller margins means more text per page with less wasted white space. The idea is simple: by switching the margins from the default 1" or 1.25" to .75" or less, we would us 4.75% less paper. This may not seem much for an individual, but according the NPR story, nationwide we would save 400 million dollars and a forest the size of Rhode Island!

The paper industry is one of the biggest environmental bad guys in big industry. According to NRDC,

"The pulp and paper industry may contribute to more global and local environmental problems than any other industry in the world. Paper manufacturers reach deep into species-rich forests for virgin timber, razing trees, polluting waterways and destroying precious wildlife habitat. Pulp and paper mills that use virgin timber are major generators of hazardous air pollutants, including dioxins and other cancer-causing chemicals. And the industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution."

The average American uses 741 pounds of paper a year. We can reduce this excessive paper usage by narrowing the margins. Changethemargins.com is a campaign to do just this. The campaign’s goals are to:

  • Convince Microsoft to change the default margin settings in Microsoft Word to .75 on all sides. The more convenient it is for people to change their habits, the better chance there is that they will actually do so.
  • Persuade five corporations to officially sanction narrower margins for all company documents. In this way, people will get used to seeing documents with this formatting as the standard, as opposed to the exception. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure.
  • Challenge five universities to adopt narrower margin settings as the standard for their students and faculty, and include this information in their course guidelines.

Changethemargins.com has started a petition to Microsoft to change the default margins to .75" on all of its software, of which there is no technical reason for the current default settings of 1.25". It has been my experience that some printers do not like margins smaller than this, but you can experiment with your own printer to see how small you can make your margins. Here are some more astounding facts on paper from Changethemargins.com:

  • It takes 17 pulpwood market-sized trees and 390 gallons of oil to make a ton of paper
  • That ton of paper, when disposed of, takes up nearly 8 cubic feet of public landfill space.
  • That public landfill is approximately 36% waste paper products.
  • Each one million pages of paper not printed saves 85 pulp trees.
  • Americans discard 4 million tons of office paper every year — enough to build a 12 foot high wall of paper from New York to California.

There are other ways you can reduce your paper usage in the office. Use the print preview feature to be sure that there are no errors in formatting before printing. Furthermore, always print double-sided, or use scratch paper when possible. I am always shocked to find the majority of the paper in the bin at the recycling center has only been used on one side. The little things do add up! Even a fraction of an inch can save paper.


  1. In a word: Hemp! Look it up on the web, hemp makes better paper, grows twenty times as much in a given timeperiod than wood, grow on unused scrub land, can open new industry and crate jobs, is being grow legally in Canada as we speak, has gotten a bad rap by big government lobbyists in the thirties, is a cash crop in China, who export the fiber to us at great cost, while it grow naturally as a weed here in the U.S.,Time for Change? Yes. Change the hemp growing laws for prosperity!


  1. […] are some tougher rules in the Generic Standards, such as ‘New planting in virgin forest areas is prohibited.’ Nice and clear. Nice and simple. Easy to check on. Perhaps there should be more […]

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