There’s no way around it: we English teachers are in the business of killing trees. We have a recycling program at school, but it doesn’t work well because nine times out of ten, our custodians dump our recycle bins into the trash. (It’s not their fault; our bins are often mislabeled or overflowing before the recycling folk do their weekly pickup; our custodians are just doing their best to keep our classrooms neat, and they do an excellent job of that).
Recently, I wrote to a local newspaper that was sending me their paper for free as a promotion to stop delivery. That saves on the plastic bags the newspaper comes delivered in. The day after I sent that e-mail, I learned that shredded newspaper was my best weapon against fruit flies, at least until the leaves start falling again. I was still happy to have cancelled my daily delivery, especially since the newspaper generally arrived after I left for work and therefore was a complete waste (also, I subscribe to two newspapers online), but I wasn’t sure what I’d do for carbon supplies.
Then as I was passing back papers to my students, I realized that at the end of each school year, I have tons (hopefully not literally) of students’ papers to dispose of, and few of those papers make it to a recycle bin because of our flawed recycling program. Why not, I thought, fill a big box with compostable paper waste each year and use that to balance out my nitrogen during the winter?
Eventually, I see this as a school-wide program. We already do organic gardening at school, but we haven’t yet started composting. I know at least one science teacher and I want to get that started soon. Once we do, our school’s paper waste could be shredded and become our store of carbon to balance out the nitrogen from school lunch leftovers and clippings from the gardens.
I am still pro-recycling. I’m going to start taking the good-quality white printer paper down to CSULB once a quarter, along with small recyclables that might not get sorted correctly mechanically, but that I can put into the proper bins. But I am excited that the lower quality paper that most of my students do their drafting on will serve a second purpose in my garden.
On a related note, I’m a big fan of papers made from sugarcane bagasse and hemp, but I’m having trouble finding them locally.