Digital vs. Paper

More and more people start to use digital devices For their schooling and works. Especially since school had gone online, digital devices made it so much easier to work with the files from school. But some people are concerned about the potential E-waste coming from the devices. It is true that E-waste can get kinda crazy. If you are taking notes using some kind of electronic devices, at the moment it seems like you have saved some paper (probably as well as the plastics used to make pens), but in a long run, the devices are potential forms of E-waste. However, if you are taking notes using paper, it is true that the US had a pretty high paper recycling rate. But it doesn’t mean you are off the hook in terms of producing waste.

Currently there is not a standardized way to measure which way is better, it heavily depends on personal habits. So I just want to share some of the opinions on how to choose between those methods for people who want a better note-taking experience and are also concerned about the environment.

  1. Think about your budget.
    It is true that the electronic devices are on the more expensive side, and even when we look at the cost/use, they are still more expensive than paper. So if you want to save money on that, just use paper. But make sure you are properly spacing your notes so that you use the every possible bit of that paper. Also remember to put them into the recycling bin.
  2. Think about your note-taking style.
    Everyone emphasized different things when they takes notes. Are you the type of people who have to write down every word of the professor or you only draw down the main points of the lecture? Depends on how much note you take, you‘ll use a significantly different amount of paper. So if you think you’ll take a lot notes, it’s cool to get a device because if you use if long enough, device might save more recourse than using paper.
  3. If you absolutely prefer to take notes on paper…
    And you feel like using actual paper is still somewhat wasteful, you can try reusable notebooks. You can write with erasable pens and when you are done, just scan the notes, upload them to a device, wipe the notebook with a wet towel. This way you do not need to adjust to the digital writing experience and still save a lot paper.
  4. If you prefer to get an electronic device…
    Make sure that you do not have old device at home that can perform similar tasks. If you do have old devices, either use them, or take care of them properly! You can pass them to someone who might need them, bring them to local recycling centers, or trade them in for new devices. They are not to be put into the normal trash bin!
    B. If possible, you can also try to get second-hand device. It is somewhat risky, but it does also conserve the environment.
  5. If you already own an electronic device…
    Try to use it for as long as possible, keep an eye on your battery healthy, do not expose it to extreme temperature, etc.

Wenqian Li

Week 4: A Beginner Guide to Shampoo Bars and Sharing My Own Experience

Shampoo bars, suggested by their name, are solid soap bars with shampoo properties. They are gradually becoming more popular to a large population; however, I have to admit they are super not conventional and can be very difficult to get used to. 

So here is a beginner guide on how to begin your journey on plastic free hair cleaning routine: 

Continue reading “Week 4: A Beginner Guide to Shampoo Bars and Sharing My Own Experience”

Week 3: “Non-biodegradable Biodegradable Plastic Bags”

The biodegradable plastics have come a long way and made themselves known to the general public. The companies have portrayed a really idealistic image with the biodegradable plastics: like naturally-made plastic bags that will naturally break down and disappear. If things really go like what people envisioned, biodegradable products would be the “hero” to solve the plastic issue on earth. But pay attention to the word “If” I used in that sentence, because the reality suggests that biodegradable plastics might not be as cool as we wish them to be.

Continue reading “Week 3: “Non-biodegradable Biodegradable Plastic Bags””

Week 2: Let’s Talk about College Stuff

It’s again the time of the year when high school students are turning in their applications and will be making decisions soon. Even we are still not certain if we can go back on campus or not for next year, choosing a sustainable campus is still important.

So, here are some things to look for when you make the decision about where you want to stay for the next four years.

Continue reading “Week 2: Let’s Talk about College Stuff”

“The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” Book Review

Author: Elizabeth Kolbert

Available in: Hardcopy (Maybe consider used book?), ebook, audiobook.

When I decided to read this book, I had in mind a book with graphs and percentages to give out stunning information about how human activities have killed off many animals on earth and I was ready to feel guilty; but this book,with factual details woven into deftly written language, gives me a feeling that is quite indescribable: it’s like standing on a remote island in isolation to realize that whatever I had is probably gone or in the process of disappearing. 

Some part of the book was somewhat history heavy, talking about the discoveries scientists made leading up to the concept of “extinction”. In our current time, extinction doesn’t seem like a fancy term, even kids can talk about how the dinosaurs and their extinction, but up until the 18th century, people have not considered the fact that “what existed may have vanished into thin air”.

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“The Story of Stuff” Book Review

Author: Annie Leonard

Available in: hardcopy, ebook, audiobook

Also available at: 

When talking about environmental protection, we are most likely to think about recycling and maybe save water in the shower. These things are good to do but I have to admit that they are not the most important in environmental protection. They are less significant only because the impact they create is too small. For instance, I saw online one time that the household water usage is only 5% of the overall water consumption, this information might not be the most up to date or accurate, but it does lay an overall picture on the issue. 

The issue is that some drastic changes are required to not even restore earth to its original, primitive conditions, but just to keep the pollution and damage within the safety boundary.

The environment is shaped this way due to various factors, and the government and the companies (who are involved financially) are a bigger factor. To use some of the book contents to back me up: the book talked about planned obsolescence, where the products are made to be not durable or the fads that make people constantly despise their old stuff, is a great way to boost up economy but creates tons of waste; also government and the companies do not want to be responsible for the messes they made (aka pollution), so that results in the unethical dumping of pollution or waste onto less developed lands.

Also as we all know by this time, buying natural and zero-waste products are probably less convenient than regular consumer products. They are less accessible, maybe more expensive. So that implies to the faulty ideas in the process of production where companies would rather earn more profit by using less natural ingredients than to be same and environmental-friendly. 

And it’s not just the earth which takes the damage from humans activities, humans ourselves are actually more susceptible to those damages. As we make the products, the poisonous ingredients are harming the health of the workers; the chemicals added in those products are applied and put in contact with human skins, so we essentially takes in all the toxins; also as we dispose the waste, we either create toxic air by incinerating trashes or let the toxins flow freely underground when we bury them. 

Basically, there is a flaw in every segment of production consumption and disposal, but this is not the end of the world, and it is not too late to act. The author proposed many ways/alternatives to the current situation, but the most effective in my opinion are the following two: EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) and a change in lifestyle.

EPR is mentioned over and over in the book, it basically says that it is the companies responsibility to recycle the waste of their products. EPR will help the companies to prioritize products’ sustainability and durability, and also find better ways to recycle specific items. 

And about the change in life-style, the author devoted a whole chapter to depict an “utopian” community. I used the word “utopian” with a positive connotation, when people are not slaves to the desire to consume unnecessary stuff, also where people are in a reciprocatory relationship that you are not simply exchanging favors but contributing to the overall well-being in the society, as well as believing in human kindness. This way products/stuff are not the only way to fulfill one’s life, and at the same time, community provides the opportunity for easy corporations like carpooling (reduce emission) or borrowing tools (so that unnecessary purchases are not made). And in a way, this can be an extended form of minimalist, where people just own what is essential to their lives. In addition to that, community and friends can make up for what you might be lacking. 

Overall, this book is full of information and realization, it definitely provides a broader perspective for environmental protection. Also, it highlights the real struggle that this industry is facing. It covers a lot more than what I talked about in this article, so it’s worth reading, multiple times. If you have not read this book, it might be a good idea to try it out. One thing to keep in mind when reading is that, this book was published almost 10 years ago, so some of the policies are not applicable anymore. But it is a great guide if you are just beginning to be concerned about the environment, it provides so much insight that we can dig deeper into. 

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Wenqian Li