Eco Wise

The Small-Margin Movement

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

If this election season has shown that Americans agree on anything, it's that we crave change. A project founded by Los Angeles-based actress and writer Tamara Krinsky advocates a simple change that anyone can believe in: By altering the printing margin preference for Microsoft Word documents from the standard 1.25 inches to 0.75 inch, Americans can save a whole lot of paper -- and trees, and money.

"This is something that everyone can empower themselves to do," Krinsky says of her Change the Margins campaign. "And who doesn't like to save money?"

Just how much of a difference could such an adjustment make? A study by the Penn State Green Destiny Council estimates that reducing margin widths from 1.25 inches to 0.75 inch would result in average paper savings of 4.75 percent. Making a ton of non-recycled office printer paper requires 24 trees, according to the San Francisco-based nonprofit group Conservatree. So for each ton of paper used for printing, about 1.14 trees would be saved with the smaller margins -- a significant amount, given that Americans use 5.4 million tons of office paper each year. That's not to mention the energy needed for production that would be conserved -- and the associated carbon emissions that would be reduced.

Other paper-saving strategies include buying post-consumer recycled paper and recycling it after use, making fonts smaller if the size won't inconvenience the reader, and not printing if you can get away with sending a PDF file or reading a document on your screen.

When Krinsky began reducing her margins years ago, it was "just something I did out of habit to save money," she says. The strategy took off after "a light bulb went off -- an environmentally friendly light bulb, that is" while she was printing a report on the environmental documentary "The 11th Hour" last summer. To date, more than 2,000 people have signed a petition at to get Microsoft to reduce the preset margins in Word.

Though that petition has yet to succeed, Krinsky hopes that other large organizations will take the lead. "I'd love it if the federal government took it up; they certainly have a lot of forms," she says. "This could be one little plank in a candidate's platform. If the new president took it up, they'd have a success within their first 100 days in office."

-- Eviana Hartman

Narrow Thinking

If you have a PC, here's how to change the margins in Microsoft Word:

1. Go to File, then Page Setup.

2. In the Margins tab, type in 0.75 for top, bottom, left and right.

3. Click the Default button at the bottom of the Margins tab. A prompt will ask if you want to change the default settings for page setup. Click Yes.

If you have a Mac:

1. Go to Format, then Document.

2. In the Document dialogue box, click on Margins and fill in 0.75 for top, bottom, left and right.

3. Click OK.

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