About a week ago, I decided I was going to stop using paper. Some people become vegetarian, some people ride a bike, some people use canvas sacks instead of grocery bags – my plan was to wipe my hands on my pants instead of using a paper towel.
Paper fasting makes sense. Paper consumption contributes to the release of greenhouse gases, deforestation, garbage, and increased entropy in one's life. I thought it would be simple. I don't use paper, so cutting it out of my diet would be easy.
Man, was I wrong. I neglected to consider that I was starting this noble fast during fifth week at Carleton. My fight against paper use quickly turned into a fight to keep afloat during midterms and paper conservation plummeted on my list of priorities. I broke all my own rules as I printed and copied, but I felt there was no way around it.
I'd convinced a couple of fellow environmentalists to try this out with me, and we all came to the same conclusion: eliminating paper use altogether is next to impossible. Even cutting down on paper is work.
Throughout our week of guilt-ridden printing sessions, we came up with some paper-conserving strategies that didn't put our 5th-week status at risk:
E-reserves = E-vil. Print out only what you need. If you don't need a hard copy for class purposes try and read it online, find the book, encourage your professor to put a couple of hard copies on closed reserve at the library, or, if you have to use a hard copy, make a friend from class and share it between the two of you. So cute.
When printing from e-reserves, leave off the reference and title pages. Have you ever used those? Are they so important that you need a hard copy?
Re-use old notebooks. How often do you actually use all the pages in a notebook for a single class?
Use the back of one-sided printer paper for problem sets, outlines, and love notes.
Large piles of rough drafts: useless clutter. Huge computer files of rough drafts: impressive, my friends. Revise rough drafts digitally.
For internet research, copy and paste information on websites into a Word file and minimize the font. Also copy and paste the site address for organization.
Recycle what you're done with. It's a difference of one can versus another.
So how would you fare if you went cold turkey with your paper use? Give it a try, or at least give it some thought. See how much you can save and what kind of rules you might add to this rough list of ideas. Check out the MPIRG Paper Fast 8th week in Sayles.
This review was originally published in the Carl and has been reprinted with permission from the editors and the author, Julie Brown. The Carl is the Carletonian's biweekly culture and arts supplement.