Earth Day at the library: Use less paper

Dana Ryals, Librarian

This year for Earth Day, instead of planting a tree or joining a roadside pick-up crew, why not adopt a new, earth-friendly habit? Planting trees and participating in roadside crews are certainly good ways to help the environment, but if we really want to shrink our carbon footprint, we also need to change the small, seemingly inoffensive habits of our daily lives, the things we do without thinking.

One non-earth-friendly habit that many of us share – particularly in the academic environment – is an addiction to paper.  When it comes to paper consumption, old habits die hard. Even when materials are available online, we crave the security of print.

We find an article in an online database and think it might be a useful source for a research paper, so we print it off.  We read an email, we print it off. Each individual act might seem harmless enough, but it all adds up. We consume too much paper and it is up to each of us as individuals to change that. The good news is that with a little conscious effort, we can easily slash our paper consumption, thereby saving trees and reducing waste.

Here are a few simple ways to decrease our dependence on paper.

Learn about paperless systems. Type “paperless” in the search box under the Articles tab on the library website and you’ll find close to 12,000 articles that discuss some aspect of going paperless.  This is a great, paper-free way to learn about the issues involved.

Cut back on book purchases and magazine subscriptions. Vow instead to make better use of what your libraries have to offer. If we don’t own or have online access to what you need, we can often get it for you through an interlibrary loan.

Refuse to allow junk paper to take over your life. To stop receiving ads in the mail, take a couple of minutes to call the company that sent them and ask to be removed from the mailing list.

A quick Internet search on “Junk mail opt out” will bring up other suggestions for how to stop unwanted advertising before it becomes clutter on your counters and fills recycling centers and landfills. You can also sign up for electronic versions of many things once only available in print. From bank statements and monthly bills to magazines, greeting cards and books, so many things that once relied on paper can now be accessed electronically.

Discover new software programs and apps used to create electronic versions of paper documents. Grocery lists, meal plans, meeting minutes and calendars are just a few examples. Microsoft’s OneNote is an excellent place to start. You might  want to explore other apps such as Evernote, Microsoft SkyDrive, Google Drive, DropBox and Sketchbook Pro.

Composting nd repurposing are other green alternatives worth considering this Earth Day. You’ll find books and other materials on both these topics — 631.875 for Composting and 745.5 for Repurposing — and many other green alternatives on our library shelves. Browse the shelves, search our online catalog or check with a librarian to learn more.

Let’s decrease the demand and dependence on paper products! Go green!