It’s the beginning of a new year in schools across the south of India, and once again, I see a massive, and avoidable, wastage occurring…that of brown paper.
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Every year, children go to a new class or form, and they have to buy a set of new text books and note books. We do not have any concept of using the text books that the students used the previous year. (That’s a massive wastage right there, but since text books sometimes change, parents prefer to buy each year.)
Each printer and publisher of a school text book obviously goes to great lengths to design the cover of the book. So, too, do the printers of note-books. The text books and note books, therefore, come in a variety of sizes, and many have attractive covers.
However, some time in the ancient past, the practice of protecting the books came into being, and for the sake of uniformity, it was decided to use brown paper to cover them. Today, brown paper itself comes in a variety of colours and textures, so there is no uniformity. The brown paper comes in sheets, which have to be cut about to cover the books, and apart from what is used, a lot of paper is wasted. Busy parents have the job of helping their children in the job of covering all the text books and note books before the start of the academic year.
Given the fact that the brown paper covers regularly tear and are sometimes replaced, and sometimes not, what is the reason for the mandate that schools place on this process of covering? And if the books are to be covered, why not in newspaper, which would recycle paper, and not waste virgin paper?
Covering all the books and notebooks with brown paper actually has the disadvantage that when the child is packing his or her books in a hurry in the morning, they all look alike, and the child has to open the books or notebooks to make sure that the right book is being packed. Of course, the wrapping never can last through the entire academic year, as the books are carted to and fro in backpacks.
Why can we not eliminate this extremely wasteful procedure, and become a little more green? Just calculating the amount of paper that must be used in our country, across so many schools in so many towns and cities, is a mind-boggling task…all I can say is that the amount must be astronomical.
Yet another example of "that’s how it’s always been done" becoming the guiding rule, instead of a common-sense approach. If only we could move forward into today’s world, where paper is a resource to be husbanded. We teach green practices to our children in our schools..but do not practice what we preach.⊕