Is This Assignment Tree Worthy?

So, as I go about my business of printing out my own badly done homework and grading other people’s homework, I have to ask myself the question, trees died so that this stuff could be printed. Was it worth it? Given the kind of effort we put into our work (and the quality of the questions or in some cases the point of the homework being done), I would say the answer is a very emphatic NO.

Before you print, consider this: 1 carton (10 reams) of 100% virgin copier paper uses .6 trees. That is to say, it takes about three or four trees to fulfill the printing needs of an office full of graduate students for one semester. By the time we’re ready to graduate, we would have consumed about about the equivalent of a small park. Master’s and undergraduate students get a quota of about 500 sheets a semester. That would add up to just about a couple of trees by the time they graduate. But there are more of them than us, so it kind of evens out (that glosses over the fact that PhD students have printed their way through undergrad and graduate programs). What does this mean for those with double PhD’s?

This doesn’t count the paper that goes into textbooks (publishers love a new edition) or notebooks or even exams. If you count how many universities and offices and schools are out there using paper everyday, It’s a wonder we still have trees around.

I wish someone would have the courage to do the right thing. And do away with homework…

Ten Easy Ways to Go Green

I’m not an armchair environmentalist. I am more of a militant environmentalist. Here are ten simple things everyone can do to go green.

  1. Carry reusable bags to the grocery store. Stop making excuses for needing plastic bags. You don’t need and you will not reuse (or recycle) all the plastic bags you get from the stores. I speak from experience. If you stash enough reusable bags in the trunk of your car, you don’t always have to plan grocery trips ahead.
  2. Recycle. Really, it’s not as hard as it seems. You just need to carry that empty plastic bottle for just two minutes more in order to recycle it. Before you know it, you will stop feeling the pain. 70% of all household trash is recyclable. That thing you’re about to throw away probably is, too.
  3. Carry a travel mug for coffee. Paper cups are not recyclable. And the plastic lids are worse. Besides, a lot of coffee shops give you cheaper refills if you buy one of their reusable mugs. Or you could carry your own coffee/tea. That’s cheaper, too. Totally worth the effort of washing the mug.
  4. Buy local produce. It’s tastier, usually more fresh, usually cheaper and doesn’t travel as many miles in a carbon spewing truck. People on the East coast don’t need Californian apples. People in India don’t need Washington apples. Local apples are just as good. We desis can live just fine without our specialty veggies grown in Mexico. It’s time we got used to eating local vegetables.
  5. Be kind to chickens. Buy organic eggs that come from free range chickens. This means the poor chickens are not cramped in itsy bitsy cages smaller than them and wallowing around in each other’s feces. Not only are you being kinder to chickens, you’re also less likely to buy salmonella tainted eggs. Always a bonus.
  6. Take a moment to consider the packaging on the product. Especially groceries. A plastic milk container is recyclable. Waxed cardboard, not so much. Single serve packages generate more waste. Buying in bulk is usually cheaper, too. You might be able to reuse the plastic produce bags. Or not need a plastic bag if you’re only buying a single apple. And so on… Saves a ton of waste on frequent purchases.
  7. If you can take the bus or walk, don’t drive. Not only will you save some gas, you can also get some much needed exercise. I lost three pounds in two weeks just by taking the bus to school instead of driving. (It helps if you carry a 15lb backpack)
  8. Shut down that computer at night. It only takes a few minutes to start up again. And you can save a lot of electricity by not letting it sleep.
  9. Unplug the electronics. This is always hard to do. And thankfully, something we don’t need to do in India. I’ve never understood the American concept of not having a switch to control all outlets. But since it’s not the only American concept I don’t understand, I’ve learned to shrug it off. 😛
  10. Don’t print everything. This is an extremely painful concept for a grad student to embrace. People who carry tons of paper always come across as smarter, busier and better prepared for class/meetings. It’s something we need to get over. I tried printing every paper I needed to read for class. But I’m thankfully over the disgusting habit.

Any more ideas?

Environment Day

I wake up every morning and I realize that the world is bigger than the one I live in. All of a sudden, work, academics, the daily routine and even marriage don’t seem to be as important anymore.

Up until a few weeks ago, when I looked outside the window, I could always see something that made me smile. Despite the traffic and the pollution, the noise and the inconsideration and the blowing up of ancient rocks and the destruction of trees, there would always be someone who behaved like we believe all human beings should all the time and restore my faith that the world is not as bad as it seems.

But somehow, I’ve lost that faith in the world now. Perhaps I’m a little too bitter and cynical for my own good. Perhaps too much.

I read this in the news this morning and it just makes the day seem worse.

And I wonder about the world we’re creating for ourselves and for future generations. A world where our own transport needs are greater than the need for trees by the roadside. Where everyone takes a short sighted view of the world. Where cows die from eating plastic bags. And thousands of cars are added to the roads each day… And I wonder what we’re trying to do and where we’re headed and it seems overwhelming.

Perhaps its not our job to judge others. Perhaps its just our job to do the best we can. To not waste food, to not use plastic bags, to not put convenience over what’s right. That seems difficult enough. I wonder if that world view will help…