Before the turn of the century, so-called “future-watchers” often predicted the advent of the “paperless office”, and by extension, the “paperless society”. Nine (or perhaps eight) years into the new millennium, it seems that if anything more people now have more paper than ever before. The proliferation of personal printers and photocopiers is, in many ways, even more astonishing than that of personal computers. Because the production of printed matter is now so cheap and accessible, the material we have is becoming more and more banal and ephemeral. Our forests are being denuded, simply for the purpose of informing potential customers of their next unique opportunity to spend money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need.
Paper pushers defend their right to free speech and conspicuous consumption, saying that all that paper gets recycled anyway. But, looking at my lawn in the spring, I know that there is a lot of it that is simply tossed away. And, the last time I visited my local stationery store (to buy the supplies I needed to feed my own shameful paper habit), I discovered that the cost of recycled paper was actually 10-30% more than standard paper! I steadfastly bought the more expensive recycled pack, and when I got home, I made sure to hug my favourite trees, telling them what I went through on their behalf (they were not very sympathetic).
I do my best to conserve paper, subscribing to paperless billing where possible, re-using the second side of printed paper for drafts, attempting to cancel subscriptions to advertising – I have even put up a no-flyers sign above my mailbox, but apparently, even though there is as much or more paper than ever before, reading comprehension is still sadly lacking for many of the delivery people who still saddle me with their useless notices.
But recently I committed a dreadful transgression, and was taken to task by my own son! I had suggested that maybe it was not strictly necessary for him to extract all the recyclable paper from the large wad of paper and tape that he had retrieved from our recently mounted garage sale signs (technology made it so easy to print all those signs…but I digress). So, here I am, writing my penitential essay. It seemed like such a little thing, but of course everyone knows all the platitudes about how it’s the little things that make a big difference in the long run.
I promise, I won’t ever do it again – and please: Don’t tell the trees!