Americans — men, women and children — consume an average of 750 pounds of paper per person per year. Not surprisingly, schools account for much of kids’ share, so initiatives like the one in the Broadalbin-Perth school district aimed at using computers instead of paper to communicate with parents are an excellent idea.
As any parent knows, schools fill kids’ backpacks every day with fliers designed to notify parents of events, policy changes, permission slips, etc. Producing all this stuff requires effort on the part of some teacher, secretary or administrator; getting it home and into a parent’s hand requires effort by the student; and then there’s cost. Paper isn’t free, nor is the toner needed for copying machines, etc. And landfills, where most paper winds up, also cost money to operate.
Since most homes are equipped with computers these days, and most areas have decent Internet service, schools should take advantage, wherever possible, to reduce their paper streams.
The only wrinkle is that not everyone — especially in rural areas — has a computer, or decent Internet service. But as long as school districts give parents the option of still receiving their communications via paper — as Wednesday’s Gazette story indicates Broadalbin-Perth is doing — there shouldn’t be any issues.
Of course much the same effort will still be required, whether a school has to produce 10 or 500 fliers, but at least there will be savings on paper, money and trees.
The latter is especially important given the environmental implications of cutting down 4 billion trees every year to meet global paper demand. As an Aug. 1 letter suggested , problems associated with air pollution and climate change might be mitigated by the simple planting of oxygen-producing, carbon-dioxide-absorbing trees. Obviously much the same effect could be realized passively, by keeping existing trees from being chopped down.
The trend toward a paperless society, already well under way, of course, should become more pronounced as Internet access grows. That’s not the best reason, but certainly another good one, for government to subsidize the effort.