Erasing the dots: 391 trees

Alice Lee

Last year, staff and students made 4.5 million copies in the copy room. That's 391 trees. This year, administration is trying to do something about it.

Dean of Students Michael Hicks stores multiple plastic bags in the drawer behind his desk to be reused at a moment’s notice. He brings fabric shopping bags to his local  Trader Joe’s when grocery shopping as to not waste multiple discardable plastic ones. He has even incorporated the concept of recycling in his professional career, emphasizing, for example, going green during the first unit of ecology in freshman Biology, a course he taught for the previous two years.

So this year, when the administrative team decided to emphasize environmental consciousness to all staff members and students, Hicks found that he had already made a conscious effort to do so both in the classroom and at home.

“It’s not really a fad or new thing in my life; I’ve been aware of going green for a long time,” he said. “I honestly believe that the more effort you put into the little things, the easier it becomes.”

At the beginning of the year, Principal April Scott announced to teachers that the copy center had made 4.5 million copies in handouts, flyers, and other paper products in the past year. According to the State of Washington’s Office of Financial Management, one tree makes about 11,500 copies of 8.5 by 11 inch papers, equating to approximately 391 trees used.

“Everyone was completely blown away,” Hicks said. “It’s not like we have that many copy machines. We only have four, which totals to about a million sheets of paper per machine.”

As such, teachers were encouraged to think twice about paper handouts they request from the copy center.

Some teachers, like Gov Team teacher Christopher Chiang, has created class sets of important documents and encourage students to use both sides of all work pages. Science teacher Kavita Gupta has Chemistry AP students print out labs and PowerPoints off the internet so they can customize their own notes.

“Essentially, I want the course to be on the web,” Gupta said. “That way, students can access files from home and print from there.”

The effects of the go green project are present at various Leadership functions as well. At the annual Leadership Retreat and Gym Jam events, students were asked to bring their own water bottles to be refilled in the school’s drinking fountains.

Another new project in the works involves installing new solar panels with money the district has received from the Measure B bond. These panels may be placed on top of areas undergoing reconstruction, such as the potential installation of a roof on top of the student parking lot.

“It’s not for sure yet,” Hicks said, “but when we’re going to rebuild, why not look into that aspect?”

Students and staff have mixed opinions regarding the general encouragement.  

“I haven’t done anything differently at all,” government teacher Pete Pelkey said.  

“There really is no win-win situation,” senior Devina Khanna said. “If teachers print less, then students will complain that they have to print more, and if they print out everything for us students will complain that they get too [much] from teachers.”

Despite theories that paper recycling is not beneficial to the environment, as it takes more energy to transport the paper to recycling locations and chemicals to treat the paper, students and staff are confident in the power of conserving paper.

“First of all, I don’t buy it because the theory isn’t well known enough,” senior Tarun Galagali said. “But if the world embraces throwing away trash and recycling paper, then it’s just convenient to accept it, rather than accept a critical theory that is hardly heard of."

“I didn’t know about this theory before today,” junior Nausheen Mahmood said. She added, “But recycling is one of the easiest ways people can help out the environment, and I think it shows that our society is optimistic.”