How to save paper in school

How to save paper in school

This is Part 1 of a 2-Part series about organizing school papers. When you’re done reading this post, check out Part 2, which is all about the Limbo Folder.

S tudents accumulate a ton of papers over the year, from worksheets to quizzes, from essays to final exams. But do you know what to do with old papers from school? Should you save them? Toss them? Keep some of them? And where should you keep them — at your home or dorm, or in your back back? And for how long should you keep your old papers?

Here’s what you should not do: Do not under any circumstance keep everything. There’s no need to do so, and saving all your old papers could actually hurt you in the long run. The more you keep, the harder it will be to find the important stuff when you need it. (More about “the important stuff” in a second.) Also, the more you keep, the more storage you’ll need, which is frankly annoying.

So how do you know which papers to keep and which ones to toss? Below is a list of tips to get you started.

What to do with old papers from school

1. Toss anything you won’t need again.

Be ruthless here. If the final exam is over or the class has ended, then don’t keep any papers related to the class. If you’re tempted to keep a paper because you think “I might reference this paper later on for another purpose,” TOSS IT. What do you think Google is for? (An exception to this rule is if you will be tested on the material in a cumulative exam later on, such as for a Master’s Degree, a Bar Exam, or something similar.)

2. Toss all duplicates.

If you’ve just finished a Slope unit in math class, chances are high that you have multiple practice worksheets with slope questions on it. Keep only the best one, and chuck the rest.

3. Toss anything that you absolutely know.

If you have a worksheet or handout that contains information that you absolutely know, then there’s no need to keep any papers with that material. However, if you know the material now, but think you might eventually forget the information before you need it for a test, then keep the paper.

4. Toss old essays and writing assignments.

You might hesitate to throw away a 10-page paper that took you 2 weeks to write. I get it. You’re proud of it, especially if the paper earned a good grade. But here’s my reasoning for discarding these essays: You have the digital version! No need to keep the hard copy (which takes up space) if you have the digital file (which takes no physical space). If you’re reluctant to toss the paper because your teacher wrote meaningful comments on it, which makes you feel good, then scan the paper into your computer and toss the hard copy. You don’t even need a scanner to do this — plenty of free phone apps can do the exact same job. I use DocScan.

5. Keep quizzes and tests before the final exam.

If the exam is over, chuck all the papers. If the exam is a few weeks or months away, keep your quizzes and tests until the exam is over because quizzes and tests make excellent study guides for larger year-end or class-end assessments.

6. Keep papers that sincerely bring you joy.

You might have a paper, essay or project that for some reason brings you joy when you look at it. Maybe it represents your finest work, or maybe the assignment actually changed you in some way as a person. These are absolutely okay to keep.

Where to store old papers that you’re keeping

I suggest you only carry with you (in your backpack or locker) any items that are in immediate and current use. I recommend storing everything else at home in a designated place.

What designated place? Depending on how many old school papers you’ve decided to keep (hopefully not too much!) you can probably make due using a single folder for each class. All your important biology handouts/quizzes go in one folder; all your important math papers go in another folder, etc. And of course, label these folders clearly, and keep them somewhere together. A magazine file works great for this purpose (see my awesome pics below).

How to save paper in school

Use a classic magazine file to store individual folders

How to save paper in school

Use a simple horizontal paper sorter to hold folders, books and papers

Final tip: At the end of each class and definitely at the end of each school year, go through these folders and throw away what you no longer need or want. (Some classes run for half a year, while others run a full year.) This should be just about everything, except for those few items that you decide bring you joy.

Oh and of course none of you would ever really throw away old papers … you would recycle them!! 😉

Don’t forget: Check out Part 2 of this paper organization series to learn how to use a Limbo Folder!

Australians send 1.9 million tonnes of paper each year to landfill, most of which can be recycled.

Paper is one of the world’s most versatile and widely used consumer materials, despite the rise of electronic communication methods. But did you know that to produce a single tonne of paper consumes approximately 20 full grown trees? A few small actions with enormous potential can quickly become a habit for a more sustainable, planet-friendly lifestyle.

According to the National Environment Bureau, each tonne of paper that is recycled saves almost 13 trees, 2.5 barrels of oil, 4100 kWh of electricity, 4 cubic metres of landfill and 31, 780 litres of water. So check out these ten ideas to lower your paper consumption and help save the planet’s valuable resources!

1. Buy reusable napkins and kick the paper towel habit

The kitchen can be one of the most wasteful areas of the house with rubbish bins filling up with food waste, paper towels, napkins, and other disposable single-use items. Save money and avoid waste by buying reusable napkins – they’re a little like handkerchiefs for your hands and face, not to mention they look trendy.

Paper towels are also an unnecessary item that adds to wastefulness and our ‘throwaway culture’. Consider, instead, using cloth purchased from op shops to wipe up spills. Why not wrap your lunchbox with cloth and take it to work so you always have one handy?

2. Donate your old magazines

There are many places that appreciate old magazines, particularly places with a reception or waiting room such as hospitals, dentist offices, or health clinics. Nursing homes and retirement communities and family shelters also might appreciate your magazines as elderly people are often physically limited and look for items to entertain themselves. Kindergartens also often seek old magazines for craft activities, as well as your local library. But be sure to call ahead before you donate anything as some places might not be needing them when you call.

3. Wrap gifts creatively

The rustic look is in! Try using old newspapers to wrap gifts and tie securely with some twine. Otherwise, cloth wrapped gifts – Furoshiki style – are a great option! Purchase cloth from your local op shop, or even buy a tea towel to wrap your gift for a double present!

Check out the below video on how to wrap gifts the Furoshiki way or even learn how to make wrapping paper that grows food!

4. Print on both sides of the paper

Halve your printed paper consumption by setting the default on your printing system to double sided. Scrap paper is also a great option to use when you’re printing something unofficial, like university notes and readings.

5. Use a handkerchief instead of tissues

Using too many tissues blows. Keep your hanky handy and discover how often it comes in use! How about toilet paper? Learn about just how sustainable your toilet paper is!

6. Stop paper bank statements

Opt to have your bank statements email you. It’s easy – either visit your bank’s website or give them a quick call. Do you know how environmentally conscious your bank or superannuation fund is? Find out here with our guide to banks that don’t support the fossil fuel industry.

7. Use an erasable board for note taking and reminders at home

Pick up a whiteboard or blackboard and keep it close! They’re handy for saving paper and not necessarily just for school notes. Write to do lists, take down important information from phone calls, recipes… the list goes on. Better yet, make your own blackboard with scrap wood and some blackboard paint!

How to save paper in school

8. Say no to junk mail

More than 100 million trees are destroyed each year to make junk mail, and 44% doesn’t ever get opened! Saying no to junk mail is easier than you think and is a significant way you can keep paper from going to landfill.

9. Reuse notebooks until the end and save empty pages

Rather than throwing away empty notebooks at the end of a school year or university semester, tear out the unused pages – easiest with a spiral notebook – and place them in a three ringed binder to create a new notebook!

10. Donate newspaper to local pet shelter

Pet shelters are often desperate for supplies, including old newspapers that can be used for bedding as it doesn’t hurt animals’ paws. Don’t read the newspaper? Animal shelters also appreciate old towels, blankets, and flat sheets.

What you can do

Recycle Recycle Recycle. At home, school, or out

1 Million Women is more than our name, it’s our goal! We’re building a movement of strong, inspirational women acting on climate change by leading low-carbon lives. To make sure that our message has an impact, we need more women adding their voice. We need to be louder. Joining us online means your voice and actions can be counted. We need you.

We’re putting our money where the planet needs it!

We’re switching our banks, super or pension funds if they invest in coal, oil or gas and we’re sending an open letter to the world’s leading financial institutions that are funding fossil fuels to tell them to stop! Will you take the pledge to switch your bank, super or pension fund if they invest in fossil fuels?

How many times have you noticed students take your pristine handouts and carelessly stuff them into their backpacks? All that hard work and beautiful clean paper suddenly vanishes into a dark wasteland, never to receive so much as a quick scan. Students either often lose the paper or render it illegible from smearing because of one too many times getting caught in the rain or from spilling their energy drink on it.

Besides the hard work you put into creating well-planned printouts, you probably want to find ways to go green; teaching your students to do the same, and it becomes more challenging to launch this lesson as you continue to provide printouts to everyone, for each project.

Regardless of your— and your school districts — reasoning for reducing paper consumption in the classroom, you can use technology to help you do it. Try some of the following ways to reduce the use of paper in your classroom to put less burden on the environment and its resources, as well as creating ways to save some of your valuable time and energy.

  • Use an Open Source Platform to Share Documents to Go Green. Programs such as Google Docs, an AV/Tech product, or a cloud computing environment offer the perfect way to reduce paper usage and go green with your classroom. With this type of platform or learning environment, you will provide a secure workspace where you can share relevant classroom documents that students can easily access via their smartphones, tablets, laptops or home desktop computers. The collateral benefits of using this method, in addition to saving vast numbers of paper reams, includes creating a collaborative learning environment where students can share their work and submit their homework in the same place they pick up the assignments. Additionally, you can make sure there are individual accounts so you can offer discrete — and discreet — feedback to each student.
  • Create a Blog for You and Your Students. Blogs are everywhere these days, so use them to your advantage. Refer your students to blog posts that include links to specific readings, which you place on a word or spreadsheet document, or you might choose to save everything to a PDF document that makes it universally easier for students to open. Remember to include a section where students can comment and ask questions about the readings. You can use your blog as a tool to encourage improving writing and communication skills by offering guest blogging opportunities. Promote guest blogging spots as a privilege instead of as an assignment so students feel more a sense of excitement than fear or dread.

As an industry leader in using technology to enhance the learning experience, while encouraging collaboration and active student involvement, we believe that one of our more than 110,000 School Specialty products can help you easily transition to a paperless classroom.

Written by Chris Dance on Oct 20, 2008

Read time is 3 mins

How to save paper in school

Like this article? Pass it on!

While using our print management system is an obvious paper saving tool, here are some other handy ideas to reduce your impact on the environment and save paper.

  1. Print duplex or two to a page– Print on both sides of the page or print two pages to a single side (also called N-Up printing). Combine both of these to print four pages on only one piece of paper! Not only save paper but also take longer to reach your print quota!
  2. Use PDF and go digital– Send business documents by e-mail in PDF format rather than printing and then faxing/mailing them. You no longer need to print, sign and send. Use an electronic signature and email documents that require a signature. While you’re at it, consider an FAX-to-email gateway so your inbound faxes arrive in your inbox.
  3. Use an electronic diary– Install a program on your laptop or computer and record all appointments and diary entries electronically. Google Calendar is our program of choice.
  4. Send e-cards– Save money and save the planet. Personalised season’s greetings can be sent quickly and easily by email. Save on stamps, cards and envelopes. Note: Some may thing you’re “cheap” doing this so make it known that your driver is not cost savings but the environment!
  5. Use a whiteboard– Forget sticky notes and note pads. Use a white board to record all those quick and temporary notes.
  6. Electronic memo’s and bulletins– Communicate in the office electronically. Invitations, instructions and important notices can be sent via email or viewed daily on an updatable document on your intranet.
  7. Be selective– Print only what you need to print. Cut and paste relevant information from longer documents and print only when and what you absolutely need to.
  8. Proof work on screen– some people prefer to print documents for proofing as it’s difficult and taxing to do so on the screen. Be kind to your eyes and simply enlarge the text temporarily while you proof.
  9. Promote awareness– place signs around your office or study encouraging these and other paper saving ideas. (Laminate them so you don’t have to reprint them!) Gentle and polite reminders are all you need.
  10. Recycle, recycle, recycle– have recycle bins in prominent places so people remember to use them, use the back of old documents as scrap paper etc. Lead by example and watch others follow!

Did you know: 10% of the world’s population, including Western Europe and North America, is responsible for over half of the world´s paper consumption. That’s more than six times the world average.

Paper consumption in Europe alone has increased six-fold since 1950. Some 10,000 sheets of paper are used each year by your average office worker in western industrialized countries (information and more tips published by the WWF).

What do you think? Have I missed any? Let me know in the comments below.

How to save paper in school

Chris Dance – Co-Founder & CEO

Chris comes with many titles: world champion sailor, coffee snob, environmentalist and electric car fan. He’s also our co-founder and CEO soooo guess we better make this the best bio EVER.

How to save paper in school

So many of us use electronic devices these days that the amount of paper we use has decreased massively – some people hardly write anything down any more!

But there is still plenty of printed matter around, from leaflets pushed through your door to free newspapers distributed at railway stations.

So how can you make sure that you don’t waste any paper?

    Use Both Sides of Every Piece of Paper

Does your printer do double sided printing? Even some of the most affordable home printers can now print on both sides of the paper, so investigate how to do that for your printers at home and work, as well as for your photocopier.

If you have a piece of paper that is printed on one side only, you can use the back as rough paper – I keep mine for making shopping lists and for scribbling to-do lists – before you finally put it in the recycling box.

Tame The Memo Monster

Schools and offices used to be some of the worst offenders for sending out sheaves of A4 sized single sided letters, handouts and memos with only a couple of lines of text.

Could you send out email and text notifications where possible? Could that document be sent out as a PDF? If you must send a hard copy, could you send out that memo on a smaller piece of paper such as A5? Could you include several topics in one letter?

Did you realise that you can contact the Mailing Preference Service and ask to have your name removed from mailing lists. This will reduce it a bit. Also try sending junk mail such as unwanted catalogues back marked ‘Moved Away Please Return To Sender’ – most places will get the message eventually!

You can also try and stop that annoying junk mail that the postman often puts through your door. Visit the Royal Mail website for details on how to do this.

Always Tick the Box

to say that you do not want to be sent marketing material whenever you apply for anything by post or online.

Do You Reuse Wrapping Paper?

Even if you only feel comfortable wrapping gifts in used paper for close family and friends that will still save paper and money.

Or how about using the paper that is now often used to fill space in parcels? You could decorated it yourself, or keep the kids busy in the run up to Christmas adding festive decor!

Stop Unwanted Free Newspapers and Leaflets.

You could phone the companies concerned, but I find that a small polite sign on your door asking that no circulars or free newspapers are delivered will usually be more effective.

E-mail or Telephone

Choose to email or telephone rather than send a letter, and receive documents, newsletters and statements electronically if given the choice. Choose the option to pay your bills by Direct Debit and ask to receive paper Bank Statements less frequently.

Those magazines that you have read and finished with will always be accepted gratefully by many organisations (and by maybe your friends!). Donate them to hospitals, GP surgeries, dentists, libraries or anywhere with a waiting room.

Buy Books Secondhand

There are so many palces to get seondhand books, from a charity shop, jumble sale or secondhand bookshop, download e-books or borrow books and magazines from your local library.

  • Remember that people used to use old newspapers as toilet paper!
  • How to save paper in school

    Updated 10th Mar 2018

    How to save paper in school

    It’s lovely to receive a chocolate egg at Easter, so even better why not make it a yummy organic, ethical or fairtrade Easter egg?

    Related to lower revenues from what has been called the Great Recession, many states have cut funding to both K-12 and higher education, and even as the economy recovers and some of that funding is restored, education funding is still behind where it was before the recession. Consequently, schools are turning to technology to help them save money.

    For example, 48 states—all except Alaska and North Dakota—are spending less per student on higher education than they did before the recession, with the average state is spending 23 percent less per student than before the recession, according to the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities, a Washington-based think tank focused on state and federal budget priorities. The cuts to K-12 education have been only slightly less dramatic, with at least 34 states providing less funding per K-12 student for the 2013-14 school year than they did before the recession. Thirteen of those states cut per-student funding by more than 10 percent, the organization continues.

    In this cost-cutting environment, here are seven ways that schools are turning to technology to save money.

    Reducing printing and paper use: A number of the “101 Smart Revenue Generators (and Money-saving Ideas)” from University Business involve eliminating paper processes for finance tasks such as employee reimbursements and refund processing, and introducing paperless alternatives such as electronic billing for tuition and online class registration. Document management can also help reduce paper use in accounts payable, as well as limiting printing in general. “If all entities that did business with the University of Houston System (UH) were paid via ACH, the university could save $100,000 per year,” notes UH president Renu Khator. Not only does this save money on printing supplies, postage, and paper, but it also can lead to the next item on our list…

    Streamlining business processes: Some schools are hiring business process specialists to look for ways to make procedures more efficient. The savings realized through the work of an analyst can more than pay for themselves,” reports eSchool News, especially when combined with a switch to electronic processes. Examples of processes that could be streamlined include purchase orders, payroll, and maintenance requests.

    Special-purpose applications: Some schools are finding that they can save money through the use of applications intended to help them better manage food services, room use, utilities such as heating/cooling and electricity, textbooks, and school buses.

    Everybody into the pool: Some districts save money by implementing shared services, pooling resources and having a single source for cloud technology, other IT services, and even administrative services such as secretarial. For example, IlliniCloud, the Illinois internal cloud consortium, saves its member districts between 30 percent and 60 percent annually on IT costs, District Administration reports.

    Reducing the cost of communications: Schools can save money over the traditional phone-on-every-desk system. They can do this using technologies such as unified communications, voice over internet protocol (VOIP), and Skype, and business processes such as centralizing the purchasing and setup of communication technologies, According to eSchool News, 54 percent of school IT executives said the top benefit of unified communications was reducing operating costs, followed by increased productivity (50 percent) and more reliable communication (44 percent). In addition, some schools are finding that these technologies mean they can put a phone in every teacher’s room, which improves security.

    Saving on computers: In some cases, schools are replacing computers because they were using Windows XP and were concerned about security risks now that Microsoft has stopped supporting that operating system. Some schools, such as St. James Catholic School in Gulfport, Miss., are taking the opportunity to move to Chromebooks, which are no-frills notebook computers that cost $200, as compared to a traditional desktop running Microsoft Windows, which generally cost about $1,000. Other school districts are saving money by buying refurbished computers instead of new ones. Refurbished computers can cost as little as one-third of new computers, eSchool News reports.

    It’s true that investing in technology can result in some upfront expense, but in the long run, it can save on operational costs. Best of all, it can result in better educated students—and that’s the best investment of all.

    We have a simple solution for how to organize kids school papers and memorabilia… set up a k-12 kids’ keepsake bin! Also known as a ‘memory tote’, this organizing idea for sorting and storing kids’ school paperwork will tame the piles of school papers around your home. It also creates a way to store your kids’ memorabilia safely and easily.

    How to save paper in school

    One of the ideas behind the KonMari method of organizing is to declutter and organize specific categories in a tried-and-true order. Heirlooms and memorabilia are last on the list because they can be the toughest and most emotional to organize.

    Which gave me the perfect excuse for tossing my kids’ artwork and school photos and papers in various files and plastic bins to deal with later.

    The problem with ‘later’ is that unless you tackle it head on it’s kind of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ With more time on our hands lately, the kids started digging through the bins and we quickly realized we needed a better way to organize them. The time, it seems, is NOW.

    How to save paper in school


    I’ve been meaning to make school keepsake bins for years but as a perfectionist kept struggling with the how. Where would I get vinyl labels for the bins? Do they need to be color coordinated? How much label tape would I need for the tabs?

    Thank goodness I saw that Organize by Julia on Instagram was making and selling label sets for the bins– the sets include both the vinyl name label on the front and labels for the tabs on the folders. I finally jumped on the school keepsake bin train and got two sets… one for each of my kids. We picked out the colors, fonts, and wording and Julia did the rest.

    Then I ordered the plastic totes and hanging folders in coordinating colors because I’m an office supply nerd. After everything arrived, the kids and I worked together and in just a few minutes, we had these!

    How to save paper in school

    How to save paper in school

    The best part is it DOESN’T have to be perfect. You can write on the bin with a paint marker. You can hand letter the tabs. You can use what you have on hand. Whatever you do, just do it– it’s SO worthwhile to get those memories organized!

    What’s the in the school keepsake bins?

    As the year goes on, we’re adding school papers such as the following to the current grade level’s hanging folder:

    • school photos
    • report cards
    • artwork
    • special papers and funny or interesting writing samples
    • awards and certificates
    • notes from the teacher
    • anything we wish to remember

    Then, at the end of the year we’ll go through the folder and weed out what we don’t need. For oversized for bulky artwork (hello, preschool macaroni noodle necklaces) take a photo and print into a book on Shutterfly or use an app like ArtKive.

    How to save paper in school

    How do you set up the kids’ school keepsake bins?

    1. Buy one hanging file folder bin per child and label the front with their name. I prefer lidded bins so you can stack them.
    2. Add hanging folders and label each folder with a grade level.
    3. Keep in an easy-to-reach place and collect the current years’ papers in the current grade level bin and sort through it at the end of the year. Take photos of oversized or bulky artwork and either print as a photo or create a photobook.
    4. Store the bin during the off season in a climate controlled area away from too much sunlight or dampness to protect for years to come.

    How to save paper in school

    How to save paper in school

    These school paper bins are an easy and simple way to store your child’s school papers from kindergarten to 12th grade. You can DIY it on your own, or if you just need to get it done ASAP purchase a set of personalized labels from someone like Organize by Julia on Etsy.

    The result? We now have an easy and beautiful spot to organize and store our kids’ papers from babyhood to grade 12. When they have homes of their own, I can hand each of them their bins and cry my eyes out probably. 😉

    How to save paper in school

    I have so much fun taking kids’ school work and putting it into binders.

    Last year, I had the pleasure of taking over 100 bins of memorabilia and putting them into binders. Every. Single. Spelling test. Phonics paper. Math worksheet and Newsletter had been saved.

    How to save paper in school

    I was surprised, but then I started asking around. And MANY, MANY mothers I asked have saved EVERY. SINGLE. PIECE of paper their child has brought home from school.

    This one shocked me. So, I really pressed into why you would keep EVERY paper. And here’s what I gathered.

    #1 It justified a mother’s place as the mother. Multiple mothers said it showed they were a good mother because they had all their child’s papers.

    #2 They LOVE everything their child does. Each line on the page is a creation of a child they LOVE, and these moms LOVE to look at their child’s work.

    #3 They are PROUD of their child.
    My child has all 100s one mom said. She was beaming.

    My incredulity was hard to hide. I mean, I am pretty good at saying, “Yes, you can keep all the paper clips,” and mean it, on the job. But I was just in SHOCK. Why would you keep EVERY paper?

    By the time I got to the third mom who had EVERY single paper, I kept pressing. And she said, “I just don’t know which ones to keep and which ones to let go.”

    That I understand.

    Here’s how I decide which school papers to keep:

    How to save paper in school

    1. I keep ALL art.

    How to save paper in school

    2. I keep ALL stories.

    How to save paper in school

    3. ANYTHING with a hand print stays.

    How to save paper in school

    4. Binders are perfect for certificates.

    Pretty much anything else I let go. All worksheets, tests, newsletters (unless the child is named in it), notes, planners, workbooks.

    Here’s the real point. When you have hundreds of bins of papers. do you or your kids enjoy them?

    Making these binders freed up LOTS of space at my client’s home. But more important than that. her children have been looking at their books over and over again. The memories she saved are being shared and remembered and are now helping to build new memories.

    So, no matter how much you save. ENJOY it all!

    Now I HAVE to know. do you save all your kiddos’ papers?