I’m Glad I Didn’t Have to Use Paper to Write This

Posted: December 2, 2010 in Editorial, Environment

Laura Green

“You’re killing trees!”  How many times have you heard those words in response to someone who’s using a lot of paper?

Such a smarty-pants statement has some truth to it, though.  In fact, we’re all tree killers whether we like it or not.  Most Americans se hundreds of pounds of paper each year, which adds up to a 100-foot tall tree’s worth of paper per person, according to the American Forest and Paper Association.

Our lives depend on paper, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find ways to use less of it.

That may be hard to believe, but take a moment to think about all of the paper you use.  There are the obvious examples, like the notebooks you use for class or the copy of On the Edge you pick up.  Then there are times when you use paper without even wanting to.  When you eat a can of soup or take a piece of gum from its package, you probably don’t think about the label or the wrapper.  Our lives depend on paper, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t find ways to use less of it.

Paper use may not seem like that big of a deal, especially if you recycle.  If one is concerned about the environment, aren’t there bigger problems to address like global climate change?  There may be bigger problems, but paper contributes to them.  One of the biggest contributors to climate change is cutting down trees.  Approximately 20 percent of carbon emissions worldwide come from deforestation.  Over 40 percent of trees cut down are used for paper, meaning the paper industry  is one of the main factors fueling deforestation.

The paper industry is one of the top wanter and energy users in the US among manufacturers.

Paper also plays a role in the pollution of our environment.  The paper production process creates a considerable amount of carbon emissions as well as sulfur dioxide and nitric oxide emissions that cause acid rain.  The paper industry is one of the top wanter and energy users in the US among manufacturers.  The use of chlorine for bleaching paper creates byproducts that can harm the immune system and even cause cancer.

Recycling paper can reduce some of these effects, but according to Environmental Protection Agency data, paper that’s recycled isn’t often made into new paper.

Between deforestation and pollution, paper use is actually a pretty big environmental problem. Don’t fear, for it’s pretty easy to use less paper if you  follow these easy tips:

  • Print two-sided: If you think you’ll forget, make a reminder note where you’ll see it before yo print.
  • Take it easy with the slides: Don’t print out those Powerpoint slides.  They don’t really help anyway.  If you must, though, print multiple per page.
  • Ditch the Post-Its: If you like to write notes, save old assignments, fliers, and other scrap paper with a blank back.  Cut it up to make notepaper instead of buying Post-Its or a notepad.
  • Put the paper plates away: Invest in a real plate.  Set it on top of the paper plates so it takes more effort to use paper.
  • Textbooks are tree-eaters: Buy them used or rent them.  It’s better for the environment, and it’ll save you money.
  • Recycle it: If you can’t reuse it, recycle it.  Everything from old assignments, paper bags, and that paper edition of On the Edge.
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