Anna Dellinger, Features Editor
The paper you’re probably not holding in your hands right now can – and should – be used for much more than reading.
In many U.S. elementary schools, the phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle” is common, and it should continue to be encouraged throughout middle school, high school, college and beyond. Unfortunately, it seems we often forget those three words. One of our ideas for a remedy is Earth Day, but it is only one day a year, and it’s not enough to keep us focused on reducing our waste.
“The average American is responsible for 4.4 pounds of trash a day, or 1,606 pounds a year,” according to truthout.org. “The average family of four in the US produces 6,351 pounds of trash each year.”
According to many different reports, the United States of America produces more waste per capita than any other country.
“The average person born in the US creates 13 times as much damage to the environment as someone born in Brazil, uses 35 times the resources of a typical person in India, and consumes about 53 times more products than people who live in China,” according to Scientific American.
Why, as Americans, do we create so much more waste than other countries? I don’t know, but we have the opportunity to change that.
Movies like “Wall-E,” with a world full of waste but devoid of life, help us to realize the direction we’re headed. Quite honestly, we’ve done a great amount of damage to the earth we live on… but not all hope is lost. Even though it might seem insignificant, something as simple as reusing a newspaper can make a difference.
Once you’re done reading it, here are 20 ways to take The Bison and reuse it to reduce waste:
- Shade from the sun – This idea inspired me to write this plea for better waste management in the first place. As I was walking by the GC, I noticed a student holding up a copy of The Bison to keep the sun out of her eyes. On a hot day, newspapers can also be put inside a car windshield to keep it a little cooler.
- Papier-mâché – Some OBU theater students already take advantage of this opportunity by using old Bison newspapers to help with stage props.
- Line pet cages – One professor at OBU takes leftover papers to her vet to be used in pet cages and carriers – it’s much easier to clean up messes that way, and her vet appreciates it.
- Packing – Especially when it comes time to move out of the dorm, a stack of old newspapers could come in handy. Whether you shred the papers first or use them to wrap breakable items, newspaper makes great packing material.
- Wrapping presents – Yes, wrapping paper can be cheap. But, why not get a little creative this Christmas season and wrap presents in newspaper? It saves a few bucks on shiny paper that’s just going to get ripped apart anyway.
- Fire starter – With the holidays coming up, fires for smores and bonfires need a little something to help them get started, and newspaper is an excellent fire starter.
- Use as compost – With newspaper being biodegradable and as thin at it is, it can come in handy in a garden. If shredded, it can be used in combination with coffee grounds, egg shells and spoiled fruits and vegetables to make great compost. Or, it can be laid around plants and soaked in water to keep weeds from growing.
- Swat a fly – Flies are pests, and it’s frustrating when you don’t have a fly swatter handy. A rolled-up newspaper works just as well!
- Create a mystery letter – Use different letters from the headlines, captions, stories and graphics to make a fun mystery note to a friend. It may not be a murder mystery, but these notes are a blast to make.
- Make a paper boat or any kind of origami – A paper boat might be a little too reminiscent of the recently remade “It” movie… but newspapers can be used for paper hats and any other kind of paper-folding art you can think of.
- Clean windows and mirrors – Cloths, rags and even paper towels can leave streaks on mirrors, but newspapers leave them streak free and shiny.
- Wrap your textbooks to protect them – The only thing worse than having to rent a $200 textbook is having to pay for it in full if it’s damaged. To help prevent such a tragedy, wrap your textbooks in newspaper to give them a layer of protection.
- Disposable table cloths – Whether it’s a night with a messy meal or a party in need of an easy cleanup, using newspapers to line the tables can save a lot of hassle – and the people seated at the table get to catch up on local news at the same time as they eat!
- Dry wet shoes – Everyone hates wet shoes, but newspapers can come to the rescue! If you accidentally step in a puddle or end up walking around in pouring rain, stuff your shoes with newspaper, which will soak up all of the moisture by morning.
- Wallpaper – If you’re looking for a cheap and easy wallpaper, newspaper is the answer. You can choose a theme by looking through the headlines, find graphics and stories that suit you or randomly select paper to put up on the wall.
- Pantry/shelf liner – It may seem old fashioned, but newspaper can be used to line your shelves. This is especially useful if your shelves are old and beat up or have some strange sticky residue on them.
- Ripen fruit faster – Buying fruit at the grocery store can be hit and miss, especially when it comes to being overripe or under-ripe. If you buy your fruit before it’s ready to eat, you can rush the ripening of a fruit by wrapping it in newspaper. It can speed up the process by a few days, but make sure to check the fruit once or twice a day so it doesn’t overripen.
- Soil pots/plant starters – As mentioned in number 7, newspaper is biodegradable, which allows it to break down in soil. Using newspaper as a mini soil pot for a plant starter allows the plant to remain in its original pot when planted into the ground, because the newspaper will decompose as the plant grows.
- Create a vintage suitcase – Line the inside or outside of a suitcase with newspaper to give it a vintage look. There are many other crafts involving vintage looks and newspapers as well.
- Keeps shape of shoes and purses – When I buy a brand new pair of shoes, one of the first things I do is remove the tissue paper inside of them. However, the reason it was there in the first place was to give the shoe shape instead of allowing it to collapse in on itself; the same goes for purses. Stuffing newspaper inside helps shoes and purses maintain the form they’re meant to be in when not in use.
If none of the above options appeal to you, there are dozens more online, both practical and artsy. And, if all else fails, find a blue recycling bin somewhere on campus. (Such bins can be found in buildings including the Geiger Center and Owens Hall.)
It is also important to remember that recycling affects more than just the environment.
“Without exception, recycling is the top action society can do to simultaneously improve: the environment, the economy, sustainable manufacturing and to prevent waste from going into oceans,” according to Recycle Across America.
This isn’t an issue only relating to newspapers – plastics, glass, metals and even food can be recycled, reused or turned into compost. As Christians, we are called to take care of God’s creation.
In Genesis, God gave us dominion over all the earth, telling us to keep it and work it. Seeking to reduce waste and to reuse and recycle anything we can helps us to be better stewards of the world in which we live.
I know it can be so much easier to just toss your waste in a trashcan, because I do it too. I want to change that. I’ve lived in other countries where everyone burns their trash – it smells awful and releases harmful chemicals into the air.
On the other hand, we are blessed to live in a country that has a great system of waste disposal. But, let’s do a better job of limiting our waste by reducing, reusing and recycling, or our wonderful system doesn’t do us much good.
So, when you’re done with your copy of The Bison, don’t look for the nearest trashcan. Instead, use it to make the world just a little bit greener.