Earth Day 2009: Rethinking Coupons

I don’t know about you, but I’ve turned into my mom. I’ve become a coupon-clipping maniac.

When this whole downturn started, coupons became cool again. Well, maybe not cool, but idiotic to disregard. And honestly, clipping coupons is fun. It’s like a treasure hunt. And I love seeing my bill reduce before my eyes at the supermarket.

Now, for every 20 coupons I get, I probably use one of them. After all, just because I can save money on things that are bad for me or bad for the environment or both doesn’t mean I should buy them. And where do those unused 19 coupons go? Straight to my recycling bin.

Recently, I started investigating online coupons. Most of them are irrelevant to me, but occasionally I see something cool. And when I do, I print it.

None of this (except for the recycling part) is very green-friendly. In fact, I wish there were a way to stop all of those supermarket circulars and unused coupons from being created in the first place and sent to me in the second place.

That’s a problem for another day, sadly. But if you’re inclined to do some major shopping on the ol’ interwebs, Coupon Craze could both satisfy your online coupon shopping jones and give your printer and some trees a much-deserved rest.

Coupon Craze cites some interesting statistics about the environmental effects of paper coupons. For example, they say that, according to Simmons Market Research Bureau, more than 40 million people nationwide are printing online coupons, which equates to an insane amount of pointless paper usage. Coupon Craze’s solution is to offer free online coupon codes… you know, those tantalizing blank spaces on web sites that you usually wish you could fill in. Coupon Craze encourages all of us to “stop clipping and start clicking” in the name of a better planet (and, of course, their bottom line!).

Some interesting facts from Coupon Craze:

If each of the 40 million people printing online coupons replaced one paper coupon with an online coupon code, 80,000 reams of paper would be saved.

Half a million trees must be cut down to produce each week’s Sunday newspapers, a large portion of which consist of coupons. Want to feel worse? Only 0.5 percent of coupons inserted in Sunday newspapers were redeemed in 2008.

The average household throws away 13,000 pieces of paper each year, most of which is junk mail consisting of printed coupons and promotions.

When you think of paper printing, you think of trees being harvested, but did you know that it also wastes a huge amount of water as well? According to Coupon Craze, more than 1.5 cups of water is required to make every sheet of paper, meaning that the 40 million people who print coupons waste 3.75 million gallons of water.

And yes, it’s not a shocker: We Americans are the worst abusers in wasted paper. The United States has less than five percent of the world’s population but consumes 30 percent of the world’s paper. If you crunch the numbers, Americans throw away one billion trees’ worth of paper every year! Yikes!

Anyway, Earth Day’s as good a time as any to rethink coupons. Coupon Craze even just launched a Green category that consists of deals and codes for eco-friendly products. Check ’em out and let us know if you have a good experience.

Posted by Joe Paone

5 Responses

  1. You say:

    “…meaning that the 40 million people who print coupons waste 3.75 million gallons of water.”

    I don’t understand how this is “wasting”. If the people actually print the coupon, they most likely intend on using it. I believe this to be a much better use of paper than the arbitrary paper ads that never get used.

  2. Fair point, Greg. “Waste” was the wrong word to use. A more objective word is in order. “Consume” is more accurate.

  3. Great idea! You can also find lots of free stuff at

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