How many times have you rummaged through your desk drawers and searched through all your binders and folders trying to find one important piece of paper, only to become lost in a plethora of old worksheets, essays and tests? This is the reality for almost every college student. If I could offer one suggestion, I would say, “Get organized.” But if I could offer an even better one, I would say, “Use less paper.”
The United States and Canada “are the world’s largest producers of paper and paper products,” according to the Paperless Project. In the U.S., according to www.epa.gov, about “69 million tons of paper and cardboard are used each year and more than 2 billion books, 350 million magazines, and 24 billion newspapers are published.” The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also states that printing paper typically found in schools and offices make up the largest amount of product consumption. We, as college students, are inevitably a part of that statistic.
But no one could live in a world without paper. Paper use has led to the development of literacy and the conservation of history and culture. “Wood fibers can be grown, sourced and reused in a responsible way,” says wwf.panda.org. Also, according to www.paperrecycles.org, the 60 percent increase in paper recovery each year since 2009 is one of the best examples of how we are protecting our environment.
While I’d give you a big green thumbs up for recycling your paper, remember that paper cannot be recycled indefinitely. The EPA informs us that every time paper is recycled, the fibers get shorter. This means it is difficult to bond these fibers into new paper. A single piece of paper may contain new fibers as well as fibers that have already been recycled.
But don’t we live in a practically virtual world anyway? The best way to reduce your paper usage is to go as electronic as you possibly can. As a future music educator, I usually like to keep hard copies of music and lesson plans as a precautionary measure. But, now, I keep most of my backup work on an external hard drive that I can plug into any computer whenever I need to access it. If you really want to save all those old papers, scan them, put them on an external hard drive and then recycle.
Promote events through online advertisement. Instead of hanging up fliers, send out e-vites and make Facebook events. Virtually everyone checks social media, but not everyone stops by a bulletin board to read every poster.
Unless they haven’t already said otherwise, ask professors if you can submit essays electronically by email or through Canvas. Let them know that they can even makes notes and corrections electronically.
If you know you need to use paper, always go double-sided, no excuse. Staying organized can help save or reuse everything made of paper: posters, decorations, newspapers, etc.
But if it can be helped, reduce the amount of paper you use in your daily life. A “paperless” world doesn’t have to mean “a world without paper.” But it can mean “a world with less paper.”
Printed in 11/12/14 issue.