The EPA cites landfills as the single largest source of methane emissions to the atmosphere, with paper representing about 38% of the municipal solid waste stream. Within schools the percentage of paper in the waste stream is even higher, almost 50%! According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, which analyzes schools’ waste on a district-by-district basis, Alameda County schools alone dispose of more than 11,700 tons of paper waste every year. San Diego runs through more than 24,000 tons, and Los Angeles schools go through a whopping 75,600 tons of paper annually.
Significantly reducing paper use is probably the most important part of curbing deforestation and the environmental havoc wreaked by paper production. If we want to create healthy learning environments for our kids now and in the future, then we need to acknowledge that our paper choices at school and home have a deep impact on their well-being.
Three years ago, through the work of our environmental science teacher, a small staff committee, and a group of dedicated students, the school at which I teach managed to gain Green School status. It was a ton of work consisting of the research and development of new strategies for paper management, campus environmental surveys, student presentations of conservation measures on campus, and more... we've since implemented a number of campus Green initiatives including donating our recycling and cleaning up campus 'hot-spots', and we look forward to all the work we still have to do. Given our experience, I would definitely say to faculty and students looking for interdisciplinary projects that have real-world value: check out more on the Green School Initiative and go for it.