Get rid of the printer

Would you like to reduce the stacks of paper you spend too much time sorting through or shredding? The next time you need to replace your printer, consider an alternative. Get rid of the printer instead.

When you get rid of the printer, you can unload a lot of paper, too. Make paper airplanes with the surplus - or otherwise recycle responsibly.

As long as you have that piece of equipment, you’ll print everything, whether you need to or not. If you have to go out of your way to print, you’ll think twice and realize how most of the time you don’t really need a paper copy.

A few years ago, I worked for an organization that questioned the necessity of each employee having both a desktop printer and access to a communal networked printer. After eliminating individual printers, the resulting reduction in paper documents made me think about my own enthusiastic home printing habits.

In the process of personal downsizing, I gave away my aging printer to see if I could function without it. Not only did I love the cost and space savings – no more pricey inkjet cartridges or boxes of paper, and fewer wires – but it wasn’t as hard as I thought to transition to only electronic documents.

Then I left my job to start a business. From a professional standpoint, I worried, isn’t having a printer essential?

Turns out, not necessarily. Two years later, I’m still in business, and still happily without a printer.

Here are three favorite printer-alternative tools.

PDFs: no need for the recycle bin

When finalizing a document, save it as a PDF. (Click here for instructions.) Don’t forget to fill in the metadata fields like Title, Author, Subject, and Keywords, which help locate the document later. If needed, security options, like password protection are also available.

Easy electronic signature

When a signature is required, instead of printing-signing-scanning the page(s), try electronic signature. There are many options out there, but I like DigiSigner. The user interface is intuitive, and the process couldn’t be simpler: 1) upload your file; 2) create and insert a signature (you can also insert initials, date, or text); then 3) download the file. A free account includes five documents a month.

Scanner-on-the-fly

Speaking of scanning, a helpful feature on most printers is the document-feed scanner used to digitize, for example, receipts, meeting handouts, or paper material that clients provide. One workaround is TinyScanner, an app (available for Android or iOS) that turns your phone into a scanner. Note that while possible to scan multiple pages, the process can be a little labor intensive. TinyScanner works best when dealing with only a few pages.

Even with these handy options, being printer-free doesn’t mean never touching paper again. At least not yet.

Since streamlining my office, there have been a couple of instances where I was forced to turn to a printer to complete a task. Both times involved the Federal government requiring a wet signature on official documents. So I transferred my files to a thumb drive and asked a kind neighbor to if she wouldn’t mind sharing her printer; and I visited a FedEx store, respectively. Number of pages printed? A grand total of four.

Googling the term “get rid of the printer” brings up lots of results about how to recycle old machines responsibly. Nothing wrong with that, of course, although it’s important to recognize that a replacement isn’t mandatory.

With increasing opportunities to work anywhere, ditch the printer – and the resulting piles of paper – and embrace your mobility.

How many pages do you print each week?