Nobody likes bills, but we've all got to pay 'em. For most of us that means a check, an envelope, a stamp, and a trip to mailbox. No big deal – or is it? A new study finds that switching to online payments and account statements offers significant environmental paybacks.
The study, from a group called PayItGreen, is the first to try and quantify the benefits of paperless billing. According to the research, when the average household pays its bills electronically, it saves 6.6 pounds of paper and 0.079 trees each year. It also prevents the release of 63 gallons of wastewater, saves four and half gallons of gas, and keeps 171 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions out of the atmosphere. Scale that up to the entire country and we find that if every household handled bill payments online, we’d save 754,698,075 pounds of paper, 9,056,375 trees, 514,728,000 gallons of gasoline, and 19,604,014,580 pounds of greenhouse gases each year.
We should note that PayItGreen is a partnership of financial service companies, all of whom would undoubtedly like to save money on printing and mailing bills and on processing checks. So I think you have to take this study with a grain or two of salt given the vested interest in the outcome.
Still, let’s not lose sight of the big picture, which clearly shows that the little things we do usually add up to make a big difference. We can quibble with the details, but the fact remains that if we all switched to paperless billing, the impacts would be huge. There's no such thing as a "small" change where the environment is concerned. Everything is connected to everything else, and even the tiniest act of ecological kindness ripples outward to create waves of change. I'm not saying that grand gestures don't matter, just that it's worth pointing out the smaller stuff, too – like paperless billing.