Thursday, February 10, 2011

Electronic Bills

Sometimes it is the easiest methods that can be implemented to save money, and resources.  However many of these practices are not being implemented by businesses.  Once a month we receive the dreaded bills for the services that we utilize, be it utilities, cellphones, cable, Internet, insurance or rent.  The majority of the service providers make it the standard to deliver hard copy paper bills, and allow for opt outs to receive electronic billings. 

With over 90% of Canadians having access to the Internet, service providers should start switching to opt in services in order to obtain paper billings, or elminate paper options completely.  Electronic bills are usually set up in two ways.  The service provider may make it so that you go to their website with a user login, where you can view a breakdown of your bill charges and even download a pdf file of your bill.  The alternative that utility companies implement, utilizes Canada Posts e-mail service, which requires you to set up a mail account and allows sends you pdf files of your monthly bills.  Both ways are convenient in that it allows you to download your bills onto your hard drive and create an electronic filing cabinet.  If for some reason you are away from home, and need information off your bill you can access it through a mobile phone or laptop. 

When you choose to opt out of hard copy billing services, you save wasteful energy and resources in a few ways.  Since you are no longer receiving hard copy bills, it is one less thing that has to be mailed to your doorstep.  Postal service uses large quantities of fuels in order to sort the mail and transport it each individual household.  However if enough people cancel their hard copy bills the fuel usage and emissions can be drastically cut. 

Hard copy bills also have an environmental impact in that they are printed on paper.  The paper production process is very energy intensive.  Machinery is required to cut down the trees down, which is usually done via a process of clear cutting which is extremely devastating to our forests.    You then have to transport the felled trees from remote regions over large distances to the pulp mill using helicopters or large machinery.  Once at the mill, machinery is used to remove the bark and chip the trunks.  These chips must then go through a process involving high temperatures/pressures and chemicals to create paper.  It is not over yet, the finished product has to be shipped out from the remote pulp mills to local retailers worldwide.  It takes about 24 trees to make a ton of paper or 50,000 8.5 x 11 sheets, a fraction of the millions of paper bills still being delivered in each city.

The process of producing paper is a double edged sword since we are not only using large amounts of fossil fuels, contaminating water, and generating harmful emissions, we are also removing the trees that can help mitigate these consequences.  It is not so bad to produce paper as long as we recycle it right?  Not necessarily, the recycling proccesses are more efficient than producing new paper however it still uses up to 40% of the energy.

The elimination of hard copies can be applied in other ways as well.  Recently my employment has decided to eliminate hard copies of pay stubs.  Businesses can now sign up to have their pay stubs emailed through Canada post.  This means that payroll processes can become paper free as they can set up direct deposits for their employees and can have an electronic copy of their pay stub emailed.  So if your work is still in the stone age by printing pay stubs or even checks, suggest that they make the switch.  Your bosses will not likely object as it will save the company money and make themselves as well as you look good.

The government of Canada also allows you to have your tax returns, and GST checks to be deposited directly into your bank account.  This saves you the hassle of having to go to your bank to deposit the check, and prevents our government from wasting paper and money.  The information on how to do this can be found at

You can also cancel the wasteful process of having a phone book delivered to your residence as I have described in a previous blog at Cancelling the Yellow.  The direct link to cancel your phone book delivery can be found at

You can also eliminate your newspaper delivery, since the articles being printed are also available on their websites for free.  If you are an owner of a e-book reader you can sign up for electronic subscriptions to various international newpapers and magazines.  If you are an avid reader you can also use a single e-book reader to store up to a 1000 books.

So please take the 5 minutes it will take to check with your service providers, and cancel your hard copy bills, cancel your phone book delivery, and sign up for direct deposit tax returns.

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