All those lovely bits of paper.

Is it possible to become completely paper free? I read a post on The Non-Consumer Advocates FB page recently where a user claimed their household was entirely paper free. They used re-usable cloths for toilet paper, paper towel and tissues (I think, once upon a time, these were called HANDKERCHIEFS). They used cloth napkins, of course, and then had a big bag of rags for things that were too horrible to be cleaned up with a re-usable rag.

This has made me think a lot about how much paper we use in our household. We always recycle envelopes and blank-backed letters for note taking. Any other paper goes into the recycling bin. We do use tissues (tsk tsk), toilet paper (how do you explain to guests that this is a toilet paper free household?!) and occasionally napkins/serviettes. We can definitely stop using two of these…I can’t see myself becoming toilet paper free.

I’m a bit of an obsessive list maker, so I’m not sure how I’d go transferring that to another medium. Call me old fashioned, but I like to use a pen and paper for my lists. I wonder how BP would go writing songs on something other than paper? Surely that would stifle your creativity? Mind you, I’m very creatively creating this very blog entry straight onto a computer, so maybe I’m wrong. (And a little bit old fashioned.)

A friend and I have an ongoing disagreement about the value of Kindles (and such) for reading. I will eat my hat AND shoes if I one day choose to abandon paper books permanently in favour of the screen. (Bob, you have that in writing – published for all to see.) I’m really very sentimental about books. I was almost swayed when I read about the Worldreader charity, though. Maybe e-readers are the future. I won’t like it if they are, though.

I guess if we make the choice to use paper for things like note taking and reading we need to be really aware of how well they can actually be recycled. And if they can’t, if all those lovely bits of paper that we send off hopefully to the recycling plant actually end up in the trash, we need to be okay with that, or willing to make a change.

The recycling process (and it’s effectiveness) needs more research from me and perhaps a little time to deal with, because it’s likely that I’m not going to be okay with my hopeful bits of paper adding to our landfill or energy consumption. So I need to be willing to make a change.


3 thoughts on “All those lovely bits of paper.

  1. I can understand sentimental attachment to physical literature. On the other hand, if you and Mr Fearse both acquired second hand e-readers then you can plough through as many books as you can lay your mitts on for the remaining lifespan of the device and never worry about buying new things. I’ve had mine for about 4 years now, and would guesstimate that I’ve probably gone through something like 300 books in that space of time. That’s 300 books that didn’t have to be printed/stored/shipped/stored/sold/shipped and finish up gathering dust on my shelves. Even using really really pessimistic numbers I can safely say that I’ve gone past the carbon-neutral point with this particular device. Given the inefficiencies inherent in even the best recycling process it’s plausible that I might actually be environmentally outperforming someone reading and pulp recycling second hand books.

    Further to that, the books I read don’t ever have to go through a recycling process. I can share them with thousands of people simultaneously (providing they’re in the public domain), I can read them on my devices, other peoples’ devices, on my desktop at home, on my phone on the train, on my e-reader in bed… my books get about. I can change the fonts and layout to suit the needs of people with poor vision, or who read in difficult conditions. I can have a piece of software read them to people who can’t see at all.

    Books with sentimental attachments are nice things to have. They’re very personal. I have several of these and would be extremely upset if anything happened to them. Everything else is disposable.

    Toilet paper should *definitely* be disposable.

    • Your comments, as usual, are very persuasive. I really do value your input on this topic because I know that a lot of my attitude towards e-books is steamed by sentimentality. And also concern that staring at a screen as much as I stare at books might be really bad for my eyes and also my brain.

      I promise to always dispose of my toilet paper responsibly.

      • I’m not a fan of reading literature on backlit screens either. Thankfully your common-or-garden e-reader doesn’t have one. 🙂 The displays are actually pretty much on a par with paper in terms of eye-strain, with the characters formed on screen read by reflected ambient light, as opposed to something like an iPad with a fluorescent lamp behind the screen. I.e. my ebook reader in broad daylight looks like this: , while my ebook reader in the dark looks like this: .

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