Blog post #6
Anna Ver Beek
Once again, my brother’s birthday is days away and I am woefully underprepared. Living thousands of miles away from family can make it difficult to communicate my love (at least not in a timely manner. After class, I stop by the bookstore to see if I can find a card written just for an eightteen-year-old-future-engineer-cycling-racquetball-player-who-grew-up-in Honduras. Dinosaurs with party hats? Maybe five years ago. A surfing dog? Not relevant. I wander away from the racks, deciding that maybe a well worded e-mail is the best way to celebrate with Noah. To be honest, though, it’s not just the sappiness of the cards that made me walk away; I’ve become increasingly aware of and frustrated by the overuse of disposable paper products in our day to day lives.
Did you know that United States and China are just about tied as the top producers of CO2 in the world? This despite the fact that China has 5X the population of the United States? One of the biggest contributors to these horrifying statistics is America’s ever-increasing use of disposable products, one of those being paper.
Making disposable paper cups, napkins and greeting cards (among thousands of other paper products) is intrinsically harmful to the environment. Trees are often harvested unsustainably, waste created by processing is siphoned into rivers, and almost half of it is not recycled after being used (Check out the stats). All this aside, however, international corporations like Hallmark add a whole new level of environmental damage in the way that they make their products: distribution that transports paper around the globe. When I tried to find out where the components of a Hallmark card came from, I was told by a rep that the paper for their cards is sourced from “Asia,” cards are printed in Kansas City and abroad, and products are distributed globally. They would not comment on the source of the trees for their paper, and refused to give me details on the other steps in production.
Think about it this way: the dinosaur card that I didn’t buy for my brother may have started its life as a tree somewhere in Brazil. From there was cut, processed, and shipped to China to be turned it into the glossy white page that I’m used to buying. The cardstock was shipped to Kansas where it was printed, packed and sent (by mail) to the PLNU bookstore. It had already traveled thousands of miles when it got to me. Should I have chosen to, I would have sent it on another long journey: a layover in Miami and an eventual arrival in Tegucigalpa. That world-traveler of a card would be read, placed on a desk for a week, and then dumped unceremoniously into the trash (there is no recycling in Honduras).
So, next time you hold a disposable piece of paper in your hand, think of where it has been and what it has cost us to get it it you. Small steps like e-mailing, using recycled paper and carrying a mug around with you can begin to lessen the tremendous impact that we Americans have on the world.
By. Anna Ver Beek