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JULIA: George Walton Comprehensive High School. Marietta, Georgia
My school uses green heritage toilet paper, which is made from 100% recovered paper fiber and 20% post-consumer materials. It meets the “Green Seal environmental standard for bleaching and packaging. I was unsure about a couple of things, so first I researched the Green Seal. To be certified as a Green Seal product, green heritage bathroom tissue has to be between 8 and 22 lbs. per ream, has to meet dry and wet strength standards (I would explain them but the units are really weird, like gf/in. what is that??). Additionally, the tissue has to have 2-24% stretch and there are no water absorbency requirements or standards. The tissue has to have a minimum of 36 ft2 per roll if single-ply, and if double-ply, it must have 18 ft2 per roll. Those are just the basics. Now onto sustainability standards. The product must be made from 100% recovered material OR two other options, but this product meets the first so let’s move on. Next, the product has to have 25% post-consumer materials.. WAIT. The package says 20%! Why is this? I just realized. The package says it meets requirement for the Green Seal environmental standard FOR BLEACHING, DE-INKING, AND PACKAGING. There are no added inks, dyes, or fragrances. Unless I want to dissect the entire specification checklist, I’m not going to go find the standards for bleaching, deinking, and packaging. Another great thing about this toilet paper is that it’s made in the USA, using less energy and putting the money back into our economy! But what I really want to know is… what is, “recovered paper fiber?” I looked it up, and, basically, it’s any and all unused or recycled paper products. This can be postconsumer OR leftovers from production line cutting, hole-punching, anything that requires trimming of the excess. The paper scraps and pieces are reused as recovered paper fiber.
We don’t have paper towels at my school—just hand dryers. But how much better are these than paper towels, especially if we had post-consumer material towels? I looked up some information about “World Dryer,” the brand of dryers my school uses. They are a typical hand dryer company, with different models and specifications. Our hand dryers are classified as “the most durable and popular;” however, are these energy-efficient? Doubtful. They hardly dry our hands at all. The company DOES have more eco-friendly dryers that can even help buildings acquire LEED certified status, but those models will not be found in my school. I’m not sure if these dryers are better or not—I would have to look up financial records and all that and I am definitely not in the position to do that SO for now we will assume that my school is making the environmentally conscious decision to conserve paper!
After being somewhat encouraged by my school’s decisions in toilet paper and paper towel reduction, I discovered the paper.
Oh, the tortured paper. It’s been bleached and suffocated past point of recognition. Look at your colors! Your unnatural dyes! I feel sorry for you, Fascopy and Boise paper. You’ve been through a lot. I only found ONE type of decent label on this paper: Acid-free. Even then, there was no third-party certification! Who knows, is this legitimately acid-free or are you just greenwashing us, Boise? The cabinet full of paper killed me a little on the inside. How much paper the school has already purchased—how many trees have suffered for the cause. Well, time to write a letter!
Dear Ms. Mallanda,
My name is Julia and I am a senior here at Walton High School. I’ve been here since the first day of freshman year and I’ve really grown attached to the school and all of the opportunities it has given me. I am an active student, participating in multiple extracurricular activities, such as Fresh Living Club (a club I created), National Honors Society, Beta Club, and Student government to name a few. I’ve spent the last three years experiencing and taking note of the way things work here, and I’ve decided that I would like to suggest a change. First off, I’m not sure if the topic of this letter falls under your responsibilities, but I needed someone to contact and the school website says that you are the administrator designated for 12th grade students. Anyway, here I go. There seems to be an endless cycle of copying and printing and discarding at WHS. We have recycle bins in every classroom, but how much that CAN be recycled is actually recycled? And is recycling the very best process we can support that concerns paper usage? The answer is no. There is a reason that ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’ come before ‘recycle’ in the triple ‘r’ mantra. One of the key beliefs of WHS is, “the commitment to continuous improvement is imperative for the school to enable students to become competent self-directed, lifelong learners.” This quote comes directly from the school’s extended mission statement. If the school itself doesn’t actively improve its processes and functions, how can it expect students to do the same in regards to their schoolwork? I’ve been participating in the Project Green Challenge for the past 10 days. This challenge was created by the organization called Teens Turning Green, which encourages students to make a difference in their communities by setting the example of an eco-friendly, or “green” lifestyle. In fact, I am the campus representative for Walton High School. We have different challenges every day for the entire month of October. Each challenge focuses on a different theme, and today’s focus was paper. As I walked around the school documenting paper product usage, I was pleasantly surprised that the toilet paper we use is made from 100% recovered paper fiber, and 20% of that is post-consumer recycled content. Additionally, we have greatly reduced our dependence on paper towels through the use of hand dryers in the bathrooms. Sadly, my positive outlook was quickly shattered when I discovered the copy paper. How is it that none of the copy paper of Walton High School, a so-called “green school” carries any environmentally sustainable certification? Let me briefly introduce you to the advantages of using 100% post-consumer recyclable material instead of the wasteful paper products that we currently use: post-consumer material paper products save 24 trees per ton of paper used, save about 8,750 gallons of wastewater from entering our water sources, and save 1, 124 lbs. of waste from entering our already overflowing landfills1. Considering that paper already takes up about 25% of landfill space, I’d say that we have a paper use problem that needs to be addressed. In one of my classes, we receive packet after packet of paper that we could easily access online and take notes on with our own paper, instead of wasting energy printing out page after page of ink and virgin material. By switching to eco-friendly alternatives to the paper we currently use, we would not only be affecting the environment in a positive way, but we would be setting an example for schools all over the county. Additionally, this is a great example of continuous improvement and a perfect learning opportunity for students and teachers alike. Like I said before, we are already making great strides in environmental consciousness with hand dryers, recycled toilet paper, recycling bins, and becoming a Cobb County “green school.” But let’s not stop there. There is so much left to do and there always will be, so let’s head on the path of environmental responsibility and stewardship. Yes, purchasing recycled material paper, like that of Kejriwal, Marcal, or New Leaf Paper, is more expensive, but if we continue to expand our use of technology with tools like Class Jump and Blackboard, we can reduce our paper use altogether and be environmentally conscious in multiple regards. I encourage you to pass this information along to whoever handles paper purchases and feel free to contact me if you have any questions! I would love a response. I am getting more and more involved with the green movement, and I would love to see Walton do the same. Another component of the mission statement states that, “students need to be actively involved in solving problems and producing quality work,” and I believe I am doing just that. Being a part of Walton has taught me to stand up for my beliefs and take the lead when it comes to making change. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to seeing changes in the way we use and purchase paper at Walton in the future!
P.S. I encourage you to use Paper Calculator (http://calculator.environmentalpaper.org/home) to calculate the school’s “paper footprint.” Also, as part of Project Green Challenge, if Walton is the first participating school to switch to 100% recycled content, we will receive 1000 notebooks from Kejriwal, a leading recycled-paper source, free of charge!
I’m going to hand in this letter at school tomorrow! I will update you with any response I receive!