By Steven Jackson
This week, your tree-hugging friends at the OEC would like to suggest a decrease in our paper use.
The only paper use information we have for our campus comes from a student activism
research project in 2007. At that point, our library used about 945,000 sheets of paper per
school year, roughly the equivalent of 114 full- grown trees. Keep in mind these numbers don’t take into account printers in other computer labs across campus, or faculty and staﬀ oﬃces.
At the national level, the statistics are more current. According to the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), the US produces about 68 million tons of paper and paper board annually. Meanwhile, the average oﬃce worker uses 10,000 sheets of printer paper every year. A 2009 EPA report found that paper makes up the majority of municipal solid waste in this country at 28.2 percent.
Although the U.S. uses a lot of paper, we’ve been getting better. A recent study by the
American Forest & Paper Association found that we recycled 63.5 percent of the paper
consumed in 2010.
Unfortunately, paper cannot be recycled indeﬁnitely. After ﬁve to seven cycles, the
ﬁbers become too short to bond into new paper and new ﬁbers must be added. So before
you chuck that pearly white printer paper into the recycling bin, think about reusing it a few times. Write your to-do list on the backs of old homework assignments, or take class notes on the other sides of handouts.
The best way to cut back on paper waste is to just use less of it. That means printing
double-sided pages, printing multiple sheets to a page or just not printing at all. With
highlighting and comment features in most PDF viewers and word processors, it’s pretty
easy to keep good notes without a hard copy right in front of you.
Best of all, if you skip the printing process, you can avoid a run-in with the North and
South OPAC printers, hellish awful satan spawns that they are.