Thursday, April 10, 2008

We need to loose weight….for a tree’s sake

My colleague, Lisa Michelle, spoke recently in her blog about the paperless diet. I find this blog entry to be particularly interesting because it speaks to the educator who inherently totes around pounds and pounds of paper. It challenges an educator to shed weight. Paper weight. Why is it that in education we feel the more paper we have the more prepared we are?

I have seen it time and time again. In the NYCDOE there are teams called “The Inquiry Team.” Their role is basically to import school data into a collection tool and generate a plan for students. I am sure there is much more to it, but this is the jest of it. They (NYCDOE) were smart in the planning these teams, it appears that there is one team per school consisting of 4-6 members (approximately 1500 teams through NYC.) Each member was issued a laptop device so they can work digitally. I implore the efforts of the city to begin shedding paper weight, but where this falls apart is in the translation. Just today I was speaking to two inquiry team members (separate schools, separate boroughs) and found that in their schools it was deemed NECESSARY to PRINT these documents and place in a binder for each of the team members. Why go through the hassle of creating an image for portable device if you are going to print literally hundreds of pages? It just doesn’t make sense. The very point of having a device that contains all the necessary documents is so that can be read anywhere, anytime not to print them.

It is important as parents that conserving paper use be instilled at home. Children should be schooled on recycling, reusing and not wasting this precious resource. Does your child’s school have a recycling program that is actually functioning? I have seen schools talk about their achievements, but I didn’t see the blue container in a single classroom. Does the computer teacher teach students to post work digitally, or are the children “printing just to print?” I am understand that not everything can or should be posted digitally, but it should be a concept that is taught. Using Web 2.0 tools like google doc to post work for collaboration, sharing and peer review is the way to go.

At home, do you have a recycling program? Does your sanitation department discriminate between glass, plastic and paper? It seems almost comical that in the NYC we have a very strict recycling program, my parents have been issued fines for not “sorting” properly, but if you live in a building or building development (and here is the comical part) the enforcement of these strict rules seems to go out the window. Well if you look at the demographics of the city, more people live, work and play in buildings then in single dwellings. So what’s the point? I can put plastic in with paper or glass and no one cares. It is very frustrating to see the signs throughout the city that say “NYC Cares…we recycle! But in essence they don’t. I have through the years found places where I can bring my Christmas tree, paper, batteries and other items for recycling, but these programs should be in place everywhere all the time.

Here is an interesting read about trees and paper. I think it is information that you could and should share with your kids/students:

How much paper can be made from a tree?
Although it seems simple, the answer to this question is really quite complicated. There are many factors which influence the amount of paper that can be made from one tree.
Paper manufactured in the U.S. is probably made of wood fiber. But where did the fiber come from? A whole tree? Wood chips from a saw mill? Old copy paper? Maybe a combination of all three?If the paper was made from a whole tree, how old and how big was the tree? What kind of tree was it?Finally, a lot depends on the type of paper. What is its end use? And how was it manufactured?As you can see, there are so many factors involved, it is impossible to arrive at any one figure. To help explain these variables, let's first take a look at the raw material used to make paper.

Wood fiber--where does it come from?
You may be surprised to learn that about one-third of the raw material used to make paper in the U.S. is residue - wood chips and scraps left behind from forest and sawmill operations. These "leftovers" would probably be burned or discarded if not used by the paper industry.Another third of the raw material is recovered paper. Although some papers contain 100 percent recycled fiber, papermakers often combine various amounts of recycled and new fiber to produce the desired quality and grade of paper.Only about one-third of the fiber used to make paper in the U.S. is from whole trees, which the industry calls round wood. It is not considered economical to use large logs for paper when they could instead be used for lumber. For this reason, only trees smaller than 8 inches in diameter, or larger trees not suitable for solid wood products, typically are harvested for papermaking.

Pre-consumer and post-consumer paper--what's the difference?
Pre-consumer recovered paper consists of trimmings and scraps from printing, carton manufacturing, or other converting processes which are reused to make pulp without reaching the final consumer.Post-consumer recovered paper (like old corrugated boxes, newspapers, magazines, and office paper), has been used by the ultimate consumer and is then returned to the mill for recycling.
From fiber to pulp to paper
The amount of fiber in a cubic foot of wood varies greatly from species to species. Hardwoods (broad-leafed species) tend to have greater wood densities than softwoods (conifers), meaning they have more fiber per cubic foot of wood.
When trees are harvested for papermaking, the limbs are removed and the trunk is transported to a pulp mill. At the mill, the bark is removed and burned for fuel or processed to use as garden mulch. The wood is often chipped into small pieces about the size of a quarter, and then broken down further into individual fibers in a process call pulping. The pulping method influences the amount of fiber the wood yields.

Mechanical Pulping
Sometimes pulping is done mechanically by pressing and grinding the wood to separate the fibers. This mechanical pulping process is very efficient. Up to 95% of the dry weight of the wood is converted into pulp. Most newsprint is made from mechanical pulp, recycled fiber, or a combination of the two. Paper made from mechanical pulp is opaque and has good printing properties, but it is weak and discolors easily when exposed to light due to the residual lignin in the pulp. (Lignin is a natural wood chemical that holds fibers together.)

Chemical Pulping
A second pulping method is chemical pulping, in which a chemical/water solution dissolves the lignin to help separate the fibers. The absence of lignin means that paper made from chemical pulp is stronger and less prone to discoloration. The pulp yield from chemical pulping is much lower, though, since the lignin has been removed. Chemical pulps are used to make shipping containers, paper bags, printing and writing papers, and other products requiring strength.The type of paper being produced determines what pulping method is used. Remember the paper you used when learning to write in kindergarten - the paper with the very wide rule lines? This paper was grayish in color, and you could actually see bits of wood in the paper. Kindergarten writing paper and newsprint do not require high strength, brightness or purity, so mechanical pulps are probably the best choice for making these types of papers.Papermakers combine mechanical, chemical, and recycled pulp in varying amounts to produce the highest quality paper required by the customer from the least possible amount of fiber.Some people say that it takes "17 trees to make a ton of paper." This might make you believe that if a ton less paper were used every year, then at the end of the year, 17 more trees would remain standing.This is really an oversimplified conclusion. Many of the trees used for papermaking would be harvested or die anyway, even if not one piece of paper were produced. Many are already dying, and must be removed to improve the health of the forest. It makes good sense for papermakers to use these trees for wood pulp.

But in general...
As you can see, it is impossible to know exactly how much paper can be made from one tree.
But let's assume that the following paper products have been produced using 100 percent hardwood. A cord of wood is approximately 8 feet wide, 4 feet deep, and 4 feet high. A cord of air-dried, dense hardwood (oak, hickory, etc.) weighs roughly 2 tons, about 15-20 percent of which is water.It has been estimated that one cord of this wood will yield one of these approximate quantities of products:

· 1,000-2,000 pounds of paper (depending on the process)
· 942 100-page, hard-cover books
· 61,370 No. 10 business envelopes
· 4,384,000 commemorative-sized postage stamps
· 460,000 personal checks
· 1,200 copies of National Geographic
· 2,700 copies of an average daily newspaper

Source: A Tree for Each American, American Forest & Paper Association, Washington, DC

Here are some important forest facts:
Each year, the U.S. forest community plants some 1.5 billion seedlings. That's an average of more than 4 million new trees planted every day!
More than 5 new trees are planted each year for every man, woman, and child in America, and millions more regrow naturally from seeds and sprouts.
There are more trees in America today than there were 70 years ago.
Trees are a renewable resource that will keep growing and growing. Unlike nonrenewable resources such as minerals, forests regenerate naturally, and good forest management by companies, governments, and landowners increases their abundance.
"How are Trees Grown for Paper?" Tappi. 10 Apr. 2008 .

So where is all this going? Schools are meant to teach our students, and they do, but as parents we need to teach our child as well. Showing them ways to recycle, ways to reuse, ways to do things digitally can have a profound impact on our environment in years to come. We are turning this Earth over to them and their children and we need to teach them well. By the way April 22nd is fast approaching…Earth day and my birthday :)

1 comment:

The Innovative Educator said...

Thanks for sharing good advice for parents, students, and teachers. Though most parents and teachers were paper trained, hopefully they will take a look and follow the lead of their digital native students/chidren who do most of their independently driven reading and writing online. And, if they need some extra tips they may be able to learn something by checking out "How I Lost 20 Pounds in One Month On a Paperless Diet" at (