How Many Trees Does it Take to Make a Timesheet?

When I was in college, I worked at a small, local cafe. In the back, near the shelves of five pound bags of vacuum packed coffee, was a bulletin board with fifteen 8×11 time sheets documenting the hours our crew put in that week. Thankfully, I was not a supervisor, and so I didn’t have to forfeit my Sundays to freeze in the backroom with a calculator. But it was somebody’s job to sit at that steel desk until the day was out and calculate all of the hours of all fifteen of us employees. That coffee shop, and most other independent cafes, employed the same timekeeping method. Punch clocks were costly and so the supervisors made sure each employee accurately wrote in their time at the beginning and end of each shift.

Memories of the old days got me thinking about how antiquated it is to use paper for most business processes these days. The new wave of online applications eliminates the need for paper record keeping but, surprisingly, many small businesses around the country still use paper to keep track of their employee’s time.

Using a single sheet of paper for a single employee may seem innocuous but when we multiply this out across the nation’s small businesses, the numbers are staggering.

If a business employees 10 people who record their time each week on a regular 8×11 sheet of paper, then this single business uses about 500 sheets (1 reem) of paper each year. By the calculations provided by, it only takes 16.6 businesses with 10 employees to use 1 whole tree. Now, according to the US Census, in 2004 there were almost 7 million paid employees in businesses employing from 5 to 9 people. (There are millions more employees in larger companies but I am only considering very small firms that are not likely to pay for costly timekeeping devises.) So, if each of these 7 million employees uses a new time sheet each week, then the country’s very small firms are cutting down 700,000 trees per year just on time sheets!

At we don’t think this kind of waste should continue. That’s why we are launching our new campaign to help businesses go green. We are contacting local small businesses and letting them know that for every 16 companies that eliminate paper timesheets we help save one tree.

For more information about going green in the business check out great Earth Day article at The Human Resources Blog!

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