Every week, I sit down at my computer and try to compile 500+ words that make sense to someone and hopefully form some kind of influential argument.

This time, it came about as I was stumbling into my room. I finally got my keys out of my bag, as I was holding my backpack, computer, two books, a drink and obviously I needed room for my phone in one hand. I placed all of my things on the floor and then took a look at the top of my dresser. This thing is covered in paper, textbooks, notecards, folders, maybe Obama’s birth certificate; I don’t know. It is finals and all of our lives are in slight disarray.

I looked up to my roommate and apologized for the mess and we started talking about all the paper we use as college students. We have a notebook or binder for each class, a folder for handouts, printing readings, printing homework, printing essays, doing scrap work, study guides, in-class exercises, syllabus’, rough drafts, outlines, final drafts, powerpoints, etc.

I sat down to think about how much paper a typical college student uses in one class. Well, may not typical, but what I’ve seen in class, specifically biology. I have a biology notebook with 200 pages in it. Blackboard tells me that there are 21 powerpoint presentations. My rough estimate is that there are about 57 slides per presentation. So if you print the sheets that have the notelines on the side, that is another 14.2 sheets of paper single sided for one powerpoint. So the approximate total number of sheets I would have used is 299.25. Then I received 6 in-class activities with two sides. On top of that, we get 3 study guides in my biology class. Once I fully filled them out on my computer it came out to about 9 pages each making 18 pages.

In total we are up to 523.25 sheets of paper for one class. Hypothetically, let us just say that this is the case for every class. Most students at my school take 15 credits, typically 5 classes. Creating 2,616.25 sheets of paper per student per semester. A typical package of 500 sheets is 5 lbs. I alone have used approximately 26 pounds of paper in one semester going for an Environmental Studies Degree. My school also has about 3,139 students according to Wikipedia. This leads up to 8,212,408.75 sheets of paper a semester for undergrad students! Around 82,124 pounds of paper are used by the undergrads at my college. This does not even include classes where there are outside of class readings, rough drafts, outlines, final drafts, etc. Obviously, not every class will use the extent of paper that one class did since there are different teaching styles and this new thing called email.

It takes 8 cords of hardwood trees (128 cubic feet) to produce anywhere between 1,000-2,000 pounds of paper according to the Sierra Club. If you do not know what that is, you should look it up. Now. The undergrads at my university therefore have killed about 10,265.5 trees in one semester. You figure that each student will continue this trend for a four year degree. That four year degree cost us 41,062 trees. And I go to a small school. This is also not including the other environmental factors it takes to create this paper such as logging, transportation, packaging, use of water and use of fossil fuels.

I mean I was not going into this paper with a meaning behind it. But I might as well hand out some solutions to make this less depressing. Typing your notes or using a tablet obviously can save you a lot of money and a lot of paper. Turn it in is always a good alternative for printing that 10 paged history paper if your teacher allows it. Personally, I understand the need to print paper out. Seeing the text, being able to write on it and physically hold it can sometimes make the work easier. There are other solutions such as recycled paper or paper made out of objects besides trees. Believe it or not there is paper made of cow manure and it is actually not disgusting. It is pretty clean.

Well, on that note my brain is shot from all this math. Happy studying everyone and look forward to a summer where we will not have to waste anymore trees!