Organize Your Receipts: Go Green

The other day at The Budget Ecoist…we were just minding our own business when suddenly…we were taken aback by a reader’s question, “Can I recycle receipt paper?”

Well, um, yes, we think so. I mean, we’ve been recycling our receipts…but maybe we’re not supposed to? Maybe there’s some special rule about receipt paper. Oh gosh…have we been causing the good people at the recycling centers to silently curse our recycleables as they sort through them, removing receipt after receipt?!? And then other paranoid thoughts started filling our heads…how good are these good people at the recycling centers? Are they able to use our receipts to steal our identities? Maybe hooligans have been rummaging throguh our recyclables and taking our receipts all along! How naive we’ve been! How many times have our mothers warned us about hooligans, and here we are just practically handing our social security and credit card numbers to them! Why don’t we just leave a kidney out on the porch while we’re at it!

OK, excuse us, we need a moment….

Alright. We’re calmed down over here. Sorry about that. We’ve done some research — research has a way of making us feel all warm and cozy. So in case you’ve been in a tizzy over receipts, let us share what we’ve learned.

First the eco-stats regarding receipts: In the United States, alone, 220,000 tons of receipt paper are produced each year. One ton of paper is equivalent to seventeen trees. Simple math…those 220,000 tons of U.S. receipt paper require the use of 3,740,000 trees every year. (Receipts don’t just grow on trees, afterall; they’re made of trees!)

How do I go about recycling receipt paper? If your city has a recycling program, most likely one of the containers you receive for recycling is for “mixed paper”. Mixed paper usually means: carbonless copy paper, white and colored computer paper, receipt paper, manilla and white envelopes, sticky notes (yes you can! even with the little sticky!), card stock (like business cards, or invitations), shredded paper, notebook paper, newspaper, magazines, paper bags, coupons, egg cartons, gift wrap (no metallic/foil), cereal boxes, books (no hardcovers) and the like.

So the answer is…you can recycle your receipts along with the mixed paper recyclers either at home or the office.

But what about my taxes? My files? My obsessive little piles I keep in the corner to comfort myself that “I purchase, therefore I AM!!!! OK, well, let’s talk about bookkeeping, taxes and the like. The obsessive little piles…well, just stay strong.

It’s definitely a sound idea to hold onto those receipts for tax purposes, longer if they have to do with home improvements that can be written off when you sell your current home. There’s actually a great service we came upon, called Shoeboxed.

Shoeboxed is like the Netflix for receipts. Collect your receipts, mail them to Shoeboxed in a pre-paid envelope they provide, Shoeboxed processes them into your safe and secure account, and Shoeboxed mails your receipts back to you along with a new pre-paid envelope. This is where you shred the receipts and recycle them.

From your account at Shoeboxed.com, you can access you receipts online. All those organized receipts will be helpful when you need to generate expense reports, make returns, or get tax rebates (by the way, your data is exportable to Quicken). You can also download your receipts to your computer.

Of course, all of this can be accomplished the more time-consuming (but budget-friendly) way, with a scanner and your own software or financial-type software programs such as Quicken.

Final tip: if you run your own business, or use a calculator with a receipt apparatus for your finances, try The Green Office to purchase supplies such as recycled calculator receipt paper.