Raising Questions About Paper Usage

A single sheet of A4 paper requires five liters of water to produce. At Holderness, we pride ourselves in the measures we take to minimize our waste through efforts like our compost machines and recycling. However, paper remains a high demand on our list. In fact, in 2018 alone, approximately 225,000 sheets of paper have been ordered for Schoolhouse – and the number only multiplies when you account for the other academic buildings.

To learn more about paper usage, I interviewed Mr. Hill about the paper used in Chapel. Mr. Hill’s efforts in conserving paper in Chapel programs are effective. Not only do Chapel programs only take up one sheet of paper now but also we are often asked to share programs with peers. “When we do a big Chapel that requires paper,” Mr. Hill said, “I cut down the number of copies to half […] and I print front-back.” As a result, each Chapel service requires less than a 500-sheet ream of paper. Additionally, all paper collected after each program goes directly to recycling.

But what about solutions that can help Chapel become even more paper-conscious? Using a projector to project the readings on a screen year-round simply wouldn’t cut it. Not only would students in the back have trouble seeing, but, more importantly, it would cover the Chapel’s beautiful stained glass. To circumvent these issues, investing in reusable portable displays such as an iPad could be a plausible solution. However, there are more implications than meets the eye. First off, Mr. Hill points out that “paper is renewable, [but] other fossil fuels [that power iPads] … are not renewable.” And even if we were to install solar-powered banks, holding iPads in a Chapel service would take away from the program. Mr. Hill said, “Chapel is a participatory event. The goal is not for the student body to be passive recipients … but to be active participants.” Electronic screens would be a source of distraction that induces students to become passive recipients, taking away from the participation level of Chapel.  

So, is there any other way, then? Mr. Hill offers an interesting solution – printing custom Chapel books every two or three years. Mr. Hill suggests, “In the future, we’ll probably print our own books that you’ll grab on your way out.” Because our Chapel program often tweaks our prayers and hymns to match topical themes, the program for each Chapel varies greatly, thus forcing the reprint of several prayers and hymns. Custom-printed books, on the other hand, offer the flexibility in content as well as the reuse of every prayer and hymn. Mr. Hill states, “What I hope to do… is to have a collection of thirty hymns that the community can learn to sing well.” Since the books are edited and reprinted every couple of years, everything would be up to date. Perhaps, Mr. Hill adds, the used books can even be given to seniors as a graduation gift!

There’s no doubt that the Chapel program at Holderness makes huge efforts in conserving paper. In the near future, we may even be holding our very own Chapel books! But as we are examining our paper usage in Chapel, maybe it is also time to apply that same thinking to other programs.  Only then can Holderness advance in its goal of eliminating waste.