Step 1: Use less paper.
Paper was invented a couple thousand years ago, back when people watched The Simpsons. It’s been a smash hit ever since. In terms of career longevity it’s second only to floors. Always thinking, always innovating, paper levelled up in the 15th century, teaming up Avengers-style with words and the printing press to bring literacy and junk mail to the masses.
As ever, we’ve gone too far: The whole history of humanity is essentially a bunch of teenagers left home alone with a drinks cabinet. Ploughing through our resources, in the UK we get through about 12 million metric tons of paper and card every year, a decent share of the 420 million metric tons the whole world gets through. We’re talking tens of billions of sheets of paper every day. That adds up to a ton of trees felled, a ton of forests cleared, and a ton of carbon dioxide chugged out in the transportation and production required to turn trees into paper. Even recycling takes a ton of energy, which takes a ton of carbon dioxide, even as we feel good about our green selves for filling recycling bins.
Reducing consumption is always the best option, saving energy and resources instead of making amends for burning through them. Let’s go paperless.
Let’s go paperless at home. Let’s read news online to save 60-odd sheets a day landing on our doormats. Let’s sign up for paperless billing and bank statements. Let’s send e-greetings to people we don’t like very much, save paper cards for the people that really matter, and send bricks through our enemies’ windows without attaching a note. Let’s use libraries, buy second hand books and give books away to save new books being printed. If we don’t care about the tactility of things let’s read e-books instead. Let’s sign up for the mailing preference service or American equivalents to cut down on junk mail. Let’s use cloths instead of paper towels. Let’s not bother with receipts from cashpoints. Let’s get college prospectuses online. Let’s buy electronic or multi-journey tickets on public transport to save a new one every trip. Let’s download music to save the sleeve notes. Let’s buy reusable coffee filters. Let’s dump people in person instead of writing Dear John letters.
Let’s go paperless at work. Let’s quit printing emails. Let’s print on both sides of paper to halve the amount we use. Let’s reuse envelopes. Let’s write notes on scrap paper instead of buying special little yellow pads with distinctive little glue strips. Let’s scan and email documents instead of posting them. Let’s use digital business cards. Let’s rant to our corporate overlords about all of the above, and have them make a bunch this stuff compulsory.
Life is so digitised now this should be easy. The only downside is the energy it takes to power our computers and phones, but with ours coming from sustainable sources instead of fossils we’re in the clear.
Let’s go paperless all the time always. Except for when we’re in hospital and have to be in the nip except for one of those paper gowns. Saving the environment’s nice and all but modesty ain’t without its charms.
And, on this occasion, save the goddamn world
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