Reduce your Paper Usage and be Disaster-Free

One of the easiest ways you can green your home computer is reducing the amount of printing done. Not only is it environmentally friendly, if done right it can be disaster proof. If you are receiving all of your household bills electronically (and you should), then you are halfway there.

Your next step is – instead of printing out all your electronic receipts, order, bills and other paperwork, save it to your computer. With OS X, this is incredibly easy.

Why Save Documents Electronically?

I’ve been using this feature to save documents for years now and it has to be the most hassle free system. Imagine, you’ve been printing PDFs of your electric bill for the past five years and saving them. Suddenly, the electric company makes a mistake and says you owe them. Or you need to look up your school loan paperwork, mortgage receipts, tax or investment documents.

Now, how easy is it to whip through your folder of saved receipts for the past five years and then email them the necessary paperwork. No digging through dusty boxes in the closet. No photocopies, no missing receipts. Its all there and very easy to store. With Spotlight, OS X makes searching through these documents even easier.

OS X’s built in Print to PDF function:

OS X has a built in Print to PDF feature that will create a PDF out of anything you want to print. For example, I use it for receipts when I pay online bills. Here’s how you activate it:

– From Firefox or Safari, pay a bill electronically.

– Go to File in the Menu Bar and choosing Print (Apple+P).

– When the print dialogue pops up, choose PDF on the lower left hand side.

Print to PDF

– Choose the “Save as PDF” option.

– Name your file and choose a place to save it.

Note: If its a sensitive document you may choose to assign it a password. When you are about to name your PDF, click on the “Security Options” button.

Backing up and Securing your Documents:

Now that you have everything electronically, you will need to do two things in order to rest easy.

1. Secure your documents via encryption.
2. Protect your documents by backing them up.

To encrypt your documents, you have three options. One is to use Filevault. In this option, your entire user folder is encrypted. If you save your documents to a folder in your Home Folder (Desktop, Documents folder, etc), then you are safe.

Other options are to create an encrypted storage area with either OS X or TrueCrypt. The advantage of TrueCrypt over OS X is that the files can be decrypted from Windows and Linux based PCs if you need them.

Here are two tutorials I’ve written on how to do this:

Using OS X.
Using TrueCrypt.

To backup your documents, you can take your encrypted volume and do any of the following:

– Put it on a USB Flash Drive.
– Burn it to DVD.
– Store it in a Gmail account (Encrypted only!).
– Use an online service such as Mozy or Carbonite.
– Store it on an external hard drive with your other backups.

I’d definitely recommend using an easily accessible method that’s somewhere other than your home. If anything were to happen such as fire, flood, or theft, with Gmail or another online service, your documents are safe and readily accessible for you.

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