Trees and the teachers who kill them

Today is the day your eight-page essay is due. Throughout this essay you have written over twenty pages of drafts and outlines and that’s not even counting the copies you made for peer review. Next week, you have to write an essay on the metaphors in Toy Story. Last week, you just finished receiving yet another packet at least sixty pages thick, full of DBQ’s and historical timelines. After the binders stop closing, after digging through a stack to get to one paper you need, and after every time you’re on the computer and you need to buy more printer paper, you wonder if there may be a better way to do things.

Paper consumption can be easy to overlook; there are clearly more important issues to be focused on such as world hunger, gas prices, and what legitimate rape really is. But some things can’t be solved right away; they take time and communication and effort. Let’s start somewhere where a difference can be made pretty quickly, somewhere that hits pretty close to home. Each day, inside of school, how much paper is being used? Let’s say the minimum is eleven pages per day. That’s fifty-five pages in a week. Not bad, but that’s just one student. Let’s say in a class of 400 students, they use 22,000 pages all together in one week. Not counting spring and winter break and the odd three-day weekend, there are 40 weeks in a school year. That makes 880,000 pages from a class of four hundred. At least. The average tree produces a decent amount of 80,500 sheets of paper. How many trees did that class of four hundred just kill? How many of those pages are actually going to go in the garbage or lay somewhere until a janitor decides to pick it up?

Paper waste/lack of recycling is an issue most schools face and need to deal with. There are multiple solutions that can help with this problem; most begin with not using the paper in the first place. Paper and paperboard account for twenty-nine percent (or 10.5 billion pounds) of municipal, solid waste. If we start with schools, we can work to make a significant dent in this number. Instead of giving out packets, make them optional. Post copies online to share and those who want a paper copy can have one. Display what would normally be given out individually on overhead projectors.

Of course, technology has the potential to be abused. But that doesn’t mean we need to waste valuable resources because those who decide to cheat might use Google. Technology has given us so much and where else should students learn to use it correctly? Maybe it’s the place that prepares us for real life and teaches generation after generation? While iPads may not replace traditional computer uses such as word processing, it can be used for portable, collaborative learning and interactive reading.

Famous tree killer, Ms. Williams, believes eventually the switch from paper to electronics is inevitable, “I know that would mean more work initial, but [how much paper I use] is something I worry about.” Personally, she has even made the switch to an E-book reader. “One of the things I would worry about is there are things that teachers don’t want kids to have from year to year, but I think we’re definitely moving towards that place.”

Change is not a scary thing. Just a decade ago, touch screens seemed to be futuristic technology. Obviously, it’s going to take some time to make the switch from paper to technology but it can be done. A high school in Washington went paperless for a week, and found it very insightful. The experiment resulted in a sixty percent reduction rate in paper usage. Why can’t we do the same? While we may have good intentions with student involved activities such as Environmental club we could do more.

Imagine walking through school, going into class and sitting down at a desk. You open your binder, find the paper you need, and close it. Your teacher gives you the links to the classwork to read on your tablet, and you discuss it in class. And somewhere in the forest a tree still stands. Imagine that.