Saving Paper: What If We All Just Received Receipts via Email?
While driving in my car this sunny afternoon, with the top down (I love my convertible), when I came to a stoplight. As I looked down, I seen a bit of paper on the ground. People litter constantly, and a few times, it’s been receipts. Obviously some people don’t care about receipts.
Most of the time, I don’t either to be honest. The majority of receipts I get at from the super market, and from buying food. They are really only useful to me if a coupon comes with them, and they rarely stay saved (at least, that’s me). The case is completely different, however, when buying merchandise, clothing, electronics, or gifts especially. These items, unlike food, can be returned later if needed, and so I take special care of those just in case. Still, I’m not perfect, and like millions of people around the world, I tend to lose a receipt here and there that would have been useful when that particular thing breaks, or I notice a problem.
It’s so agitating when that happens too, because many stores won’t accept the item if you don’t have a receipt (unless you shop a lot at Kohls).
Receipts are annoying for employees and also business owners as well. When it comes down to it, there is simply so much paper to look over constantly that it can be quite stressful for people to have to go through it. In a recent blog post on The Lowdown online, Trevor Greenway (the author) tells the story of Diane Morey and her staff at Cafe Molo in Wakefield, Quebec. Along with many others like Diane, people around the country are quite frustrated with having to deal with a ton of paper all of the time.
“We go through one roll of receipts per day,” said Morey, holding up two full garbage bags of paper slips she has saved since April 22. “It’s insane. It’s absolutely absurd.”
However… there is a solution which I believe could be easily implemented in today’s modern worlds that would solve all of these worries and help with the whole “green movement” at the same time: Email.
Think about this for a moment: What if all receipts, whether from a grocery store, clothing store, or even an auto parts or auto repair shop, came instantly to your email inbox, rather than on a slip of easily destroyable (and/or discarded on the ground) paper? Think of all the issues that we as shoppers have today when it comes to receipts, and how many of those problems you would still have, if they had come to you digitally instead.
First off, losing receipts would be a think of the past. People across the country would be creating email folders, specifically meant to store emails from vendors who sent them receipts for their purchases. When it came time to fill out those awesome tax forms, you would be sure you have every business expense saved and documented. Furthermore, since the receipts are already in digital formet, logging them digitally just got easier as well. Next time the IRS dude comes around to audit you, you’ll be more than ready to simply give him a thumb drive rather than a ton of boxes and folders (unless of course you’d rather print them out and place them into the boxes, just for him!).
Let’s turn a bit to look into environmental changes this could bring, and the financial savings that would come from it as well. First, super markets and other businesses could save on overhead costs (which is always too high anyways) by greatly reducing, if not eliminating entirely, the need to purchase paper for receipts. Because they wouldn’t be printing the receipts anymore, they’d save on paper AND they wouldn’t have to buy ink for the receipt printers. Actually, they wouldn’t need those either, because… well, I think you are catching on here. This could save businesses thousands of dollars per year, and in turn, help lower their costs of operation. When that happens, in most cases, consumers could even see prices from certain places go down a bit, and they too could save a bit from it.
Environmentally, the impact could be monumental. Less paper circulating, means less trees being cut, and less gas being used to transport the trees being cut, and less electricity to cut everything to make paper (of course, it won’t have a HUGE impact in these areas, as paper is used for many other things besides receipts). People wouldn’t need to worry about when it was safe to throw away receipts, or have to throw them away ever anyways. Less trash people…
Take a forum post from Unclutter, where one user who had recently purchased a scanner (for scanning and making digital copies of receipts) asks when it’s safe to throw away receipts. The conversation goes on with a few responses, eventually ending up with one member saying they usually keep receipts from things they might be able to return, and that grocery receipts, along with other non-returnable items, “get trashed immediately.” The entire purpose of the receipt is to document the transaction for later viewing. If, however, the people are going to instantly throw them away when they get home (or before they get home, as I seen today)… why print them at all? Email receipts would dramatically reduce the amount of paper that consumers throw away every year.
Yes, of course there would be substancial privacy risks involved with these new implementations of technology. Our transactions are already being tracked as it is, but having an email address attached to our cards may pose the potential for, for lack of better words, spamming. Companies could potentially use the information they were given in the transaction, and add people to lists for email flyers, or potentially sell them off to third-party advertising companies. This is why it is critical that, if such a system was to come about, it would be kept secure and safe for all users. One way to do this, is email redirection/masking. If you are unsure as to what I mean by this, consider how Craigslist does their anonymous email communication. Each person receives a strange email to be anonymously contacted by, yet somehow the mail ends up in our inboxes anyways. This is the same structure we could hope to see in this.
Also… business entities would likely be required to agree, by law, not to do such acts in order to use the system.
We are using far too much paper in this country as it is, and every little bit helps. As you can see, both the environment, and our own wallets (which ironically comes to us having more paper in our wallets) could easily benefit from a movement such as this. According to the EPA, we use a metric shit-ton of paper every year, just in the United States:
The average office worker in the US uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. That’s four million tons of copy paper used annually. Office workers in the US generate approximately two pounds of paper and paperboard products every day.
Same thing applies to those office workers, who are constantly printing, and mailing invoices to clients. It would take far less energy, and resources, if we simply use the technology in front of us to make a difference. Software could be invested in, and written to take criteria (information) from any and all transactions, and implemented to send out details of such transactions, just as they do to corporate offices already.
Doesn’t this sound like a great idea? I’m not saying something should be made to profit from this, because I just don’t believe this is something anybody should profit from. It’s simply a way to help things work better, and more efficiently in this country, and potentially around the world. If you think so, tell your friends about it, by using the share buttons below this post. Perhaps this will spread, and maybe, just maybe, this idea could spark a little bit of imagination into somebody who can actually do something later. There may actually be some places that already do this too, although I can’t seem to find any online. Obviously the vast majority of places don’t, so this is something that could make an impact.
It isn’t meant to make a huge dent in single locations either. I’m referring to a global scale. If one Kroger store saves $400 per year, in one location, think of the savings for all businesses throughout the country. It’s easily in the billions.
Do you know any place that does this already? If so, please let me know!!