I hit my alarm clock andclimb out of bed, stumbling into the bathroom. The light hurts my barely openeyes, and I knock over my sister's retainers soaking in water. "Ahhh,"I grumble, grabbing a few tissues to soak up the water. I turn on the shower,failing to adjust the shower curtain properly, but I don't notice. I unroll toomuch toilet paper. "Dad," I yell down the hall, "the toilet isclogged again!"
Climbing out of the shower, I notice the puddles ofwater that escaped the shower curtain. I grab paper towels in a rush,overestimating the bodies of water. Three paper towels are left after repairingthe damage, but I find they look better in the trash than back with their rolledcompanions who await use.
In the kitchen, I hurriedly prepare my breakfastand lunch. I wrap a bagel in a few napkins, throwing one or two extras in mylunch bag. Ravenous, I eat the bagel in a matter of minutes, discarding itswrappings which are hardly touched. I write a note to Mom before I leave, butchange my mind about its message halfway through. I crumple the paper and shootit like a basketball into the trash. "Nailed it at the buzzer!" Iscream in a moment of triumph before searching for another sheet ofpaper.
At my locker, I locate several items of trash, old class notes,paper that cannot be used and projects that no longer serve any purpose, throwingeverything into a nearby barrel. In homeroom, a friend starts her homework. Afterreading the directions, she discards her paper and asks me for asheet.
"Do we need to pass in the scrap paper with our work onit?" asks Mary Beth. Our math teacher says it will not be necessary, so 20girls throw away two or three pieces of paper each, and the trash canoverflows.
At lunch, Sally spills her soda. She grabs a stack of napkins,using only half to clean the table. We forget about the remaining napkins, and bythe end of lunch they have found a new home in the trash barrel. I throw my brownpaper lunch bag in with many others. In the bag I have left the napkins I packedearlier that morning, an empty juice box and a variety of snack wrappers.
After soccer practice, I head for the bathroom to wash my hands. A sign on thewall reads, "Please use only the amount of paper towels you need." Anoverflowing barrel stands in the corner.
"Mom, do you have any whitelined paper?" I ask later as I begin my homework.
"Check thecloset," she responds. Much to my pleasure, I find a 500-sheet bonuspackage. It will probably last me a few months of school.
I help dry thedishes after dinner. My mom prefers to use a towel, but I opt for paper towels,which must frequently be changed. By the end of the dish-drying episode, I count10 paper towels in the garbage.
Dad sits on the couch, reading thenewspaper. He collects papers from previous days and puts them in thetrash.
My brother is typing a paper on the computer. After printing out acopy, he notices a few errors and prints out another. The first copy is thrownaway.
I try to clean my room before going to bed, and toss out old studyguides, reminders to myself and useless magazines. The trash pile grows andgrows.
Turning off the light and setting the alarm clock, I jump into bed.Not once do I reflect on the paper I have wasted.
In an average day,society uses and wastes so much paper. We hardly recycle, confusing a trash canfor a recycling bin. Paper is wasted on brochures, pamphlets, coupons andenvelopes. When my cousins and I were young, we would take stacks of bankwithdrawal slips and pretend they were money. Whoever got away with the biggeststack was the wealthiest. Once we were finished with this game, the"money" was simply thrown out.
This is what life is like today.We take for granted the abundance of materials around us, never thinking wherethey are from or how long they will last. We all need to be mindful of the amountof paper we use, and waste.
Recycle paper, use only what is needed and bemindful of how much you waste. So much paper is used and wasted in my life alone.Just think about how many more lives use the same amount or even more in 24hours. The number is staggering, and it's only in a single day.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.