Thursday, February 18, 2010

Go Paperless for Earth Day!

Steve Katz has started a Paperless section on his PD wiki and is looking for contributors. Go help him out; that could be a great resource.

He's also calling for folks to go paperless for Earth Day.

I can dig that.

The Clean Air Council produces my favorite image demonstrating what American paper waste looks like: "Each year, Americans trash enough office paper to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City."

Furthermore, paper production is a problem twice over: because excess carbon dioxide is released during the initial harvesting of the trees, and methane is released once paper winds up in the landfill.

Now there are those cynics who will say that the energy consumption and toxicity produced by discarded computers and consumer electronics is just as bad as paper waste. And while currently, paper waste dwarfs the waste produced by electronics, certainly they have a point that we're dealing with bad situations on both ends.

And so the solution can not merely be recycling. The solution -- on both fronts -- has to by source reduction.

And, as the EPA notes: "source reduction is waste prevention".

According to that agency:
 Recycling one ton of paper would
  • Save enough energy to power the average American home for six months.
  • Save 7,000 gallons of water.
  • Save 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one metric ton of carbon equivalent (MTCE).
But not using the paper to begin with would do so much more.

Schools are notorious hotbeds for paper waste. I've seen estimates of 40% of school waste being paper. The Clean Air Council states that each American blows through an average of 650 pounds of paper a year. I'm sure teachers bear a higher average.

As for the electronics waste side of the argument, we consumers should be insisting that manufacturers build 'shell-based' modular computers and mobiles that allow for the easy swap out of old individual components for new while being extra-durable and maintaining the life of the device itself for far longer than anything currently on the market. And we should be demanding (with our pocketbooks) that the companies themselves assist in electronics recycling programs that actually recycle the material components like lead and mercury in safe ways and refrain from shipping junked machines to third-world countries to poison the children of the poor who scavenge them for metals.

As for what we can do in our classrooms, Steve and I are asking that as teachers you pledge to refrain from using any paper or accepting any work on paper this Earth Day (April 22nd). And as for old machines: use Freecycle, support non-profit recycling programs like the National Cristina Foundation, and let's make a difference.

I've started a Google Doc where you can sign your name and pledge to commit to go paperless on April 22.

And remember: Source reduction is the best form of conservation. So think about what you print, what you buy, and how you recycle. Teachers and students together can make a difference.


  1. What about starting a Google Doc or Wiki of paperless (and completely resource-free) classroom activities?

  2. This is such an awesome idea! Just signed up and excited about the day :)

  3. I like this idea. I've drastically reduced my paper usage with my adult EFL classes. Nowadays, it's mostly the whiteboard & markers.

    It's hard at first though, most of my students are engineers and prefer to have a hard copy of something in front of them.

  4. Using class is almost paperless

  5. been paperless for two years now. best decision I ever made.

  6. A great way to save paper is to have every student have a blog and all work that they do goes on the blog.....period!!

  7. I'm using Moodle, Adobe Acrobat Pro, SnagIt, and Camtasia Studio teaching in a lab with a dual monitor setup for each student.

    What is this "paper" about which you speak? Oh yeah, it's that stuff the administrators are always bugging me to turn in to them.

  8. Going paperless is possible, it's already begun in a few places outside of Education as well.
    We featured "A Paperless World" on out Education site/blog. Link:

  9. I support this worthwhile effort, and find it truly encouraging. I have been using Moodle for two years, and have encouraged friends and co-teachers to do the same. With the online administration of our final exams, we have not only reduced our paper consumption, but saved money as well.

  10. I'm actually glad to see all this stuff, to see that this world offers creativity and ideas other than what my lonesome small town provides.

  11. any suggestions on how to go paperless when all students don't have access to a computer?

  12. This is a great initiative. To go paperless in math learning try It is an online math training program for students k-6.

    We created GoldStudent to make it easier to parents or teachers to help their kids be better at math. It uses assessment test to design a personalized study guide for each student, assign worksheets and tests, and then grades the worksheets and tests instantly online, with a good tracking tool to allow teachers and parents to track progress.

    Please tell us what do you think.

    Thank you!

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  14. I would like to share our ideas for celebrating Earth Day. Please visit Thanks.

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  16. The blog is absolutely fantastic. Lots of great information and inspiration, both of which we all need. Thanks


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