ways to reduce paper use in your PT practiceBy this point, you know the importance of recycling—why “going green” isn’t only good for the environment but good for your clinic. But there’s more to it than simply putting out a blue bin (although that certainly helps).  In order to really make an impact, we have to start much sooner—we have to pay attention to our consumption. The less we consume (use), the better it is for all of us—our world, our children, and our children’s children.

While that goes for everything—less gas, less plastic, less water, less electricity—one of the easiest ways to start conserving is cutting down on paper. 

A Bit O’ Background

Here are 15 facts about the paper industry, global warming, and the environment directly quoted a 2007 article on the daily green

  1. Forests store 50% of the world's terrestrial carbon. (In other words, they are awfully important "carbon sinks" that hold onto pollution that would otherwise lead to global warming.)
  2. Half the world's forests have already been cleared or burned, and 80% of what's left has been seriously degraded.
  3. 42% of the industrial wood harvest is used to make paper.
  4. The paper industry is the 4th largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among United States manufacturing industries, and contributes 9% of the manufacturing sector's carbon emissions.
  5. Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste (and one third of municipal landfill waste).
  6. Municipal landfills account for one third of human-related methane emissions (and methane is 23-times more potent a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide).
  7. If the United States cut office paper use by just 10% it would prevent the emission of 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases—the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road.
  8. Compared to using virgin wood, paper made with 100% recycled content uses 44% less energy, produces 38% less greenhouse gas emissions, 41% less particulate emissions, 50% less wastewater, 49% less solid waste and—of course—100% less wood.
  9. In 2003, only 48.3% of office paper was recovered for recycling.
  10. Recovered paper accounts for 37% of the U.S. pulp supply.
  11. Printing and writing papers use the least amount of recycled content—just 6%. Tissues use the most, at 45%, and newsprint is not far behind, at 32%.
  12. Demand for recycled paper will exceed supply by 1.5 million tons of recycled pulp per year within 10 years.
  13. While the paper industry invests in new recycled newsprint and paper packaging plants in the developing world, almost none of the new printing and writing paper mills use recycled content.
  14. China, India and the rest of Asia are the fastest growing per-capita users of paper, but they still rank far behind Eastern Europe and Latin America (about 100 pounds per person per year), Australia (about 300 pounds per person per year), and Western Europe (more than 400 pounds per person per year).
  15. The Forest Stewardship Council's certification of sustainable forestry practices is growing, with 50% of the paper product market share and 226 million acres accounted for. Advocates say the demand for recycled paper and sustainably harvested pulp from consumers, advertisers, magazine makers and other users of paper will yield the fastest reforms of the industry.

And paper’s damaging effects on the environment (aka paper pollution) aren’t limited to it’s production (which emits Nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon dioxide (CO2)). Paper sitting in a landfill decomposes and produces methane, which, according to an article on PaperCutz.com citing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is “a greenhouse gas with 21 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide.” (Global warming, much?) Even paper recycling can be a source of pollution because of the sludge produced during deinking.


A Few Places to Start 

Stop printing.

While it may be tempting to print long articles, important emails, or in-clinic memos to read (or post), resist. By browsing, reading, and sharing on screen, you’ll reduce your paper consumption and printing costs dramatically (think how quickly reams of paper and ink costs add up).

Find a note-taking app.

You’ve got a smartphone; use it. Most phones (definitely all iPhones and Androids) have built-in notepad apps so get to know yours. This way, when you need to jot down something quickly, you’ll be in the habit of just pulling out your phone. Plus, if you need to share your tidbit of genius, you can simply copy it and paste it into a text or email message.

Use scratch paper (if you have to).

Chances are there will be times (albeit occasionally) when you need to write on a piece of paper—when carting around a laptop, a tablet, or your smartphone isn’t feasible. Just make sure you reach for scratch paper instead of a brand new sheet. Find an empty corner and make your note. Then wait until you fill the entire page before you toss it in the recycle bin and start again.

Nix paper plates.

In another WebPT post, fellow Senior Copywriter Charlotte Bohnett discusses how cutting the throwaways can significantly reduce your impact. “This one is simple. Eliminate all plasticware, paper plates, and solo cups from your break room. Purchase some inexpensive plates, cups, and silverware and have staff use, wash, and reuse. Furthermore, buy economy size packages of cleaning products, trash bags, office supplies, etc. to eliminate paper packaging waste. If you can purchase clinical supplies that also use minimal packaging, even better.”

Adopt EMR.

And finally, go digital. By adopting a comprehensive physical therapy EMR solution, you’ll eliminate paper charts, calendars, manilla files, registration forms, hard copy claims, and everything else “paper” you currently devote to documentation. Not only will that make your paper consumption next to nonexistent, your office will be more organized and less cluttered.

 About.com’s PT expert Brett Sears helped his clinic go green by transitioning to an EMR, which allowed him to “significantly reduce the amount of paper that flows through [his] office each year.” Brett says that this decision helped him reduce his environmental impact and provided “major financial savings.”

Need another reason (like dollar signs) to make the switch? According to a Power DMS infographic on the EMR effect, a paper chart costs $8 per year to maintain; an electronic chart costs about $2. Not only will transitioning to an EMR reduce your paper use and therefore your impact on our forests and natural resources, but you’ll also greatly reduce your in-clinic expenses.


We make the world that our kids will grow up in. I know I’d rather make a few small changes to my habits now and save the forests, the climate, and the air for them. In honor of this month’s Earth Day, I’m going to take my own advice and nix solo cups and paper utensils; use my phone’s note taking app more; and go cold turkey on my sticky note addiction. What paper-conserving changes will you make to create a better world for tomorrow?

WebPT HEP - Regular BannerWebPT HEP - Small Banner
  • articleApr 22, 2013 | 4 min. read

    Quick Tips for Improving Work Efficiency in Your Rehab Therapy Clinic

    As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve dedicated a sizeable portion of this month’s blog space to helping you and your clinic conserve resources and become more environmentally conscious. But let’s not forget about the most important resource of all—your time! You might assume that you need a major systematic overhaul to improve work efficiency in your clinic. Not so. In this case, small investments pay big dividends. Here are some quick tips to help you get the most …

  • 4 Tips for Point-of-Care Documentation Domination Image

    articleMay 2, 2016 | 5 min. read

    4 Tips for Point-of-Care Documentation Domination

    In the past, clinicians have been either relationship-driven or data-driven, but now, they’re expected to do it all: document quickly and completely while simultaneously developing and maintaining great relationships with their patients. To make that balancing act even more difficult, documentation has become an ever-more arduous and lengthy process over time. As former clinic owner and WebPT Senior Member Consultant Shayne Peterson , PT, ATC/L, puts it, “The struggle is real.” One way to reduce the struggle? …

  • articleApr 2, 2013 | 2 min. read

    April Founder Letter: Take Your Practice for a Walk on the Green Side

    It’s April. And that means spring has sprung. Even though many across the country would argue that winter is still hanging on for dear life, the leaves will soon unfurl and the sun will shine. So what does this mean for you and your practice? It means now’s the time to shake off the winter doldrums and spring forward (see what I did there?) into new beginnings. Spring means energy, vibrancy, and positivity, so be sure to …

  • 4 Ways to Go Green in Your Clinic Image

    articleApr 8, 2013 | 5 min. read

    4 Ways to Go Green in Your Clinic

    We all know the deal: reuse, reduce, and recycle. And yet, as of 2009, the US was producing 251 million tons of trash each year. Only 53.4% of all paper products were recycled, while only 32.5% of total waste was recycled ( stats from Sustainablog ). So, yes, we know the deal, but are we doing all we can? Hopefully, your clinic recycles, and if it doesn’t, that’s my first tip: recycle and make sure you’re following …

  • Founder Letter: 4 Predictions for PTs, OTs, and SLPs in 2017 Image

    articleJan 5, 2017 | 15 min. read

    Founder Letter: 4 Predictions for PTs, OTs, and SLPs in 2017

    Last year, I laid out a handful of predictions for 2016 —and what do you know? Most of them were spot on. In fact, much of what I covered—think interoperability, the importance of data collection, payment reform, and the push toward private practice consolidation—are all holding strong and will surely continue into 2017 (well, barring any unforeseeable curveballs to the state of health care as we know it, that is). In the meantime, though, here’s what I …

  • Common Questions from our State of Rehab Therapy Webinar Image

    articleJul 17, 2017 | 16 min. read

    Common Questions from our State of Rehab Therapy Webinar

    WebPT recently conducted an industry survey of thousands of rehab therapy professionals across a wide variety of settings, specialties, and geographic regions. Our goal: To capture an accurate snapshot of the demographics, trends, frustrations, and motivations that shape our businesses, our future outlook, and our potential for success in this environment of change. In last week’s webinar , WebPT President and Co-Founder Dr. Heidi Jannenga, PT, DPT, ATC/L, and WebPT CEO Nancy Ham shared the results of …

  • articleJan 17, 2012 | 2 min. read

    Top Tips from Real EMR Users

    Haven’t made the switch from paper to an EMR (electronic medical record) yet? It’s natural to have hesitations and concerns. When you’re making a big decision, it’s sometimes helpful to hear from those who have gone before you.  Our friend, Katie Matlack, over at Software Advice recently conducted interviews with several companies currently using EMRs. As a result, she was able to compile a list of the top 8 pieces of advice from real users . One …

  • Defensible Documentation Toolkit Image

    downloadNov 20, 2018

    Defensible Documentation Toolkit

    Is your documentation defensible enough to withstand scrutiny? Documentation is no one’s favorite, especially as increasing rules and regulations make it even harder to ensure your documentation is complete enough to withstand scrutiny. But, while documentation may not be the most-liked aspect of your job as a rehab therapist, it surely is a crucial one—for you and your patients. That’s why we’ve developed a comprehensive Defensible Documentation Toolkit—complete with 10 must-know defensible documentation tips, example notes, and …

  • 4 Tips for Implementing an EMR System Image

    articleJan 5, 2015 | 5 min. read

    4 Tips for Implementing an EMR System

    Preparing to implement an EMR system within your practice? Then you’re undoubtedly experiencing some anxiety. After all, it’s quite the change from the pen and pad of paper so many therapists have been using for decades—like, since mullets were cool. And even if you’re starting fresh with a new practice and EMR is all you’ve ever known, the pressure is still on to get this implementation right. Here are our tips for implementing an EMR with ease: …

Achieve greatness in practice with the ultimate EMR for PTs, OTs, and SLPs.