Saving the environment is an easier sell when it’s convenient and saves money.
A recent study found by switching to electronic billing, customers and businesses can significantly reduce paper usage. Electronic billing means that customers no longer receive paper statements, nor do they mail checks for bills such as credit cards, student loans, mortgages and utilities. Customers receive and pay their bills online.
The study, commissioned by PayItGreen, found that per year, each person who switches to electronic billing saves 6.6 pounds of paper, avoids producing 171 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, avoids releasing 63 gallons of wastewater and saves 4.5 gallons of gasoline to mail paper items on average.
That’s the equivalent of planting two tree seedlings and letting them grow for a decade or preserving 24 square feet of forestland.
PayItGreen is a nonprofit organization that educates businesses and consumers about the environmental advantages of electronic billing. It’s paid for by financial institutions, financial industry service providers and businesses.
Lawrence resident Claudia Dozier has been using electronic billing for years.
“I pay all of my bills online; I don’t get anything paper through the mail anymore. It’s easier, I don’t have to write checks, it results in me not getting tons and tons of stuff in the mail,” Dozier says. “It just makes it simpler.”
Dozier says it’s a combination of the convenience and paper savings that got her to switch. She also likes not having to take the time to shred all the mailings from companies, too.
The numbers for the environment add up quickly. If 2 percent of U.S. households switched to electronic billing per year, it would save more than 15 million pounds of paper, preserve more than 181,000 trees, prevent more than 143 million gallons of wastewater from entering the environment and eliminate 390 million pounds of greenhouse gases, according to PayItGreen.
Those environmental benefits may or may not translate into financial savings. A person with 20 bills a month can save more than $100 a year in the postage, checks, and fuel needed to mail payments, according to NACHA, The Electronic Payments Association. But convenience fees can be associated with paying via credit card online, so check with individual providers.
More people have the ability to switch to electronic billing now. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 63 percent of adults had home broadband internet access as of April this year.
For now, Lawrence resident Brooks Hanson says that he still handles most of his bills the traditional way, writing out checks every month and either mailing them or dropping them off at local offices. That’s about to change, though.
“I’m an old-fashioned guy. I get all my bills in the mail. I can sit down at one time and do it all at once and know it’s done,” he says.
But Hanson plans on spending time out of the country, and it’s the accessibility of online billing that’s getting him to switch, he says. He doesn’t know about the environmental impact of electronic billing, but after learning about it thought it was a good bonus.
“Now I can look up anything I want, and not worry about having someone else taking care of it for me,” he says.