The Paperless Interpreter

My Four Favorite Tools for a Paperless Office


Growing up in Northern California meant care for our environment was celebrated and integrated into daily life. I’ve been recycling for as long as I can remember. At school, Earth Day was a week-long celebration, and in third grade I performed the “Recycle Rap” at a school event.

Now that I have a small business, I still believe in environmental stewardship and social responsibility. This means, in part, looking for ways to minimize the use of paper in my workflows and administrative processes. The only thing I consistently print is the final draft of my translations for final proofreading, since it is proven that typos are easier to spot on paper than on a screen.

Today I am going to share the four things that have made the biggest difference in drastically reducing paper usage in my workflows.

  1. Scanner with an Auto Document Feeder and two-sided scanning (the two most important features). I have a fairly fancy Kodak model and it was a game changer. It has a quick-access menu on my taskbar with multiple presets that include scanning specifications, default file name, and save-to location for my common documents. For the few clients that regularly produce billing paperwork, it takes less than a minute to scan it and have it securely stored in the correct folder.
  2. Adobe Acrobat. I love efficiency, so I really dislike having to print out a form, sign it, scan it, and email it. That paper lives a rather useless 5-minute life for an unnecessarily complicated process. I believe Acrobat Reader is sufficient to digitally fill out and sign PDFs without need for printing. However, the advantage with Acrobat is I can also create interactive forms for my contractors and clients, with a digital signature field and “send” button—and their completed document goes directly to a designated location on my computer. No one has to print anything.
  3. Tablet (Samsung Galaxy Note Tab 10.1). As I have written before on digital note taking for interpreters, I switched from legal pads to a digital tablet and stylus. Before, I was going through four or five bulk packs of legal pads each year. Now, I only keep a small notepad to use as a cheat sheet for recurring names and dates, and to write out spellings for the court reporters.
  4. Donated paper. Sometimes printing is unavoidable, so I try to re-use previously printed pages whenever possible. Most people I know also print two-sided to save paper, but occasionally one-sided printing happens. My printer does it once in a while when it goes on the blitz, printing a few hieroglyphs on the margin of each page until it runs out or I turn it off. I have let my close friends know that I will use such paper, since most of what I print is for internal use only (such as proofreading). During one conference I interpreted, the organizer printed each interpreter a 200-page stack of event materials, all one-sided. She consented to let us take the paper home to re-use it; it lasted me years, and it got two  uses before going into the recycle bin.

These are the tools that most drastically reduced my paper use. What are your favorite tips for a planet-friendly workflow?