Every day, I receive large quantities of junk by mail that in addition to filling my mail box, also annoys me because I have to throw so much paper into my waste basket. Top junk mail senders are grocery stores such as Walmart, department stores like JC Penney, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and various credit card companies such as Capital One, Citibank and Chase. According to this article, an average person receives only 1.5 personal letters every week (so true) and about 10.8 pieces of junk mail.
More than 100 million trees’ worth of bulk mail arrives in American mail boxes each year – that’s the equivalent of deforesting the entire Rocky Mountain National Park every four months. (New AmericanDream calculation from Conservatree and U.S. Forest Service statistics)
My main gripe here is with paper wastage and not junk mail. I find it easier to tolerate such promotional e-mails because I can clean my inbox in 30 seconds. It only consumes my time and some electricity, whereas, cleaning junk mail consumes much more. Also, I don’t think many people use those “Return Envelopes” that come along with them. How many of us still mail our checks? It takes ages and costs much more. I don’t buy stamps and keep in my house. It’s preferable for me to call them up directly and pay my bill or better, just log into my account and pay using my credit card. Every single day, half of my trash can gets filled with only junk mails. This is one of the reasons I detest checking my mail box.
It wastes 28 billion gallons of water for paper processing each year. If you cut your bulk mail for 5 years, you’ll conserve 1.7 trees, 700 gallons of water and prevent 460 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the air. 40% of the solid mass that makes up our landfills is paper and paperboard waste. By the year 2010, it is predicted to make up about 48%.
There are many ways of reducing the quantity of junk mail. You can call up credit card companies and opt out of pre-screened offers, sign up for electronic bills instead of paper bills, paste a note on your mail box saying “NO junk mails”. Some of these mails are quite amusing. Today, I received a mail by the US Navy telling me that they would pay for my tuition fees, regular stipend of around $4,000 per month and lots of other perks, only if I join them. This is another great website that tells you how you can make a couple of phone calls to telemarketers and credit score agencies such as Experion and find out more about the whole issue and hopefully, reduce some paper waste.
We waste a lot of paper in the office too. Let’s consider a typical office desk: 2-3 different kinds of Post-Its, A Big Legal Pad, A Small Pad, Manila Folders, Hanging Folders, colored paper, 2-3 kinds of envelopes, and then you have the devilish laser or ink jet printer! Do we really need all this? As the development of a country increases, the waste produced by the country also increases. A typical office produces about 1.5 pounds of paper waste per employee per day. The waste increases to 2 pounds in financial services industry. Every recycled ton of paper saves about 17 trees and 462 gallons of oil. If you’re interested in more statistics and ways to reduce paper waste, then take a look at this article.
I used to work for this Professor last semester who was a little “technologically challenged”. He would e-mail me whenever he had some work and also leave the same message in my office in paper. Doesn’t make any sense to me. Every morning, I would arrive at my office, find at least 5-6 sheets of high quality office paper, with a measly 5-6 sentences typed on them. I would try to use these papers for scratch work because I really dislike wasting paper. After some time, I got fed up. Finally, what did I do? Throw them into the bin. Have you seen the number of fliers that you get in colored paper that nobody even bothers to read? Why do people still do that? I’m sure those who make those flyers also know that nobody will want them in their mail box. So, why not just stop it?
Maneka Gandhi, because of her love for animals, had also appealed to reduce the waste of paper because more forests get cut. I also read somewhere on the Internet that Mahatma Gandhi believed in the reduction of paper waste and he would write on even the smallest bits of paper. Plus, he encouraged the use of hand made paper because it reduces the harmful chemicals that are released into the environment and also provides employment. I think handmade paper is more of a novelty now and is used only for greeting cards and decorative purposes.
In India, I had never used paper for cleaning kitchen and ovens and refrigerators. But in the US, people buy big rolls of kitchen towels for cleaning purposes. It’s more convenient and hassle free. Just wipe and throw! It took me quite some time to get used to it. I’m still not happy about it and try to use some kind of cloth to reduce the paper waste.
Even in malls and department stores, all those paper bags…are they really helping the entire matter? Most of them are not even recycled. There is a myth regarding recycled paper that they are not as good. Recycled paper have only about 10% market share. Here, in the University, we had an intra-college competition in this regard. The Department that recycled the most and also consumed the least amount of paper was declared the winner and all the employees were given free lunches and tokens.
By the way, United States is the largest user of paper in the entire world and surpasses the second largest user, Japan, by 25%. You’ve got to be here to really believe it.
So, what do I do to reduce the paper waste?
1. Print on both sides
2. Always adjust the font size to see if it helps in using less paper.
3. Make sure that the document is final and error-free.
4. Minimize the use of Post-Its and other fancy items.
5. Re-use badly printed documents as scratch paper.
6. Called up those agencies to reduce the junk mail.
I found this slide show on the Internet:
If you read this post, and stop and think the next time before you waste some paper, then I’ll believe that I’ve achieved something. By the way, does anyone have any opinions on the use of toilet paper? 🙂