Paper is a wonderful medium. We use it in so many ways. We use it to scribble down notes, fold it into airplanes, create art with it, use it as packaging, draw on it, and store information. It’s part of our everyday lives.
Every year, and average person uses around 500,760 sheets of paper (904,375 for office workers). That’s 712.2 cubic feet of wood (1,286.2 for office workers)! We cut down so many trees for paper, with majority of used paper ending up in landfills. Only about a third of used paper ever gets recycled. The rest litters our planet, slowly decomposing over time but never being able to completely replace the trees they came from.
Imagine now a paperless world. I first heard of the term a long time ago, as a little girl, before the age of the IPhone and tablets, before Twitter and Facebook. A time when the idea of e-books were just being launched. I remember my mum talking about it, trying to wrap her head around the idea of not needing to print out every picture from camera negatives, or not having a bookcase filled with old novels, or not needing paper receipts from the shops. Then it seemed like a far-fetched idea, something that could only happen in the movies or in some high-tech experimentation lab. But today, the idea of going paperless is becoming more and more popular. Today, we have smart phones and IPads instead of notebooks and pens. We can text, instant message, or email instead of writing letters and mailing them. We view photos on a screen instead of printing them out on glossy paper. So maybe the paperless world isn’t so far off, maybe it’s right around the corner.
Think for a moment about the amount of paper we use and unnecessarily waste, especially as “designers in training”. Are there ways we can reduce this amount? Thinking about how much we use makes me realise how ridiculous it is! We’re designing and trying to figure out ways to save the world’s resources, but at the same time wasting them with out overuse of materials like paper. We’re designing ways to save nature and trees on paper, isn’t it ironic?
I think it’s time to make the decision to use less paper until we can be paperless, to a certain extent. We can reduce the amount of paper we use, thinking wisely about what we do with each sheet and not wasting it.
Paper isn’t completely replaceable. We can turn paper books into digital ones, we can draw on computer programs, we can jot down notes on our phones, but there’s something special about paper we can’t simply get rid of. I love the feel of reading an actual paper book or doodling with pen on the side of my notes. I love being able to hold printed photos and drawing my ideas on paper. I can’t be paperless just yet, but I can use less paper. I won’t be living in a paperless world yet, but maybe I’ll get there eventually.