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?

The State of Rehab Therapy in 2019 - Regular BannerThe State of Rehab Therapy in 2019 - 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 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: …

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

    articleMay 3, 2016 | 6 min. read

    4 More Tips for Point-of-Care Documentation Domination

    In part one of my two-part series on point-of-care documentation, I talked about four ways technology—and a helping hand or two—can make documenting in front of your patients less of a struggle. But, there’s still one pretty big hurdle between you and a smooth point-of-care documentation style: yourself. Don’t worry, though; our five therapy experts have some tips for that, too. In this second and final post, let’s dive into four ways you can help yourself—and your …

  • The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018 Image

    webinarJun 1, 2018

    The State of Rehab Therapy in 2018

    Falling reimbursements. Skyrocketing insurance premiums and copays. Crippling student loan debt. As a PT, OT, or SLP, sometimes it feels like it’s you against the world. After all, the challenges you face on a daily basis are many and complex. But, you’re not alone. In fact, we recently surveyed nearly 7,000 rehab therapy professionals on everything from payment rates and clinic budgets to education costs and salary, and we found some pretty strong—and surprising—trends. [video://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/eh5khgt1r6]   Curious …

  • 4 Reasons You Should Ditch the Pen & Paper—and Go Digital with EMR Image

    articleDec 19, 2017 | 4 min. read

    4 Reasons You Should Ditch the Pen & Paper—and Go Digital with EMR

    Paper was a marvelous invention—and it still has numerous wonderful uses. But its heyday as the medium for medical documentation has come and gone. After all, who wants to spend their days shredding, filing, shuffling, or stacking paper? Just writing that has us feeling sleepy. At this point, there’s not much about documenting on paper that is particularly appealing, especially if it’s a quagmire of quarrelsome patient charts—handwritten, faded, and sharp—just waiting to wreak havoc on your …

  • The Case for Specialized Software: Why Your Hospital EHR Hinders Patient Care and Increases Risk Image

    articleJul 28, 2016 | 6 min. read

    The Case for Specialized Software: Why Your Hospital EHR Hinders Patient Care and Increases Risk

    If you Google “hospital EHR,” you’ll initially receive an overwhelming number of search results for the EHR systems themselves—essentially, advertisements and promotions for their software. Wade through those results, though, and you’ll uncover a wealth of articles in which hospital practitioners complain about their technology and how it negatively impacts patient care. Search “private practice EHR,” and you’ll encounter the same thing. And these complaints are, by and large, voiced by physicians—the people for whom these systems …

  • articleOct 23, 2012 | 4 min. read

    How to Pitch an EMR to Your Clinic Director (or Your Staff)

    Today's blog post comes from WebPT  Copywriters  Char Bohnett and Erica Cohen. You’ve done your research; scoured the tradeshows; evaluated your options, and frankly, the writing’s on the wall: Digitally documenting with a rehab therapy-specific EMR just makes more sense than charting on paper—for your practice, for your patients, and for your sanity. But before you go ditching the pen and paper, you need buy-in, maybe from the clinic decision maker or maybe from your staff. Here’s …

  • articleApr 15, 2011 | 4 min. read

    Automating Your PT Practice Documentation is the Green thing to Do

    There are many costs that go into running a physical therapy (PT) practice that are above and beyond just the equipment and expertise needed to care for your patients. The costs of running an office, overhead and other supplies must be put into the budget. One of the biggest costs is the overhead of managing your PT practice documentation. That is a cost that is easy to lose control over, especially if you have mountains of paperwork …

  • 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 …

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