One Muggle’s “Trash” is a Writer’s Treasure


Happy Arbor Day! . . . a little late.

In the spirit of the tree-planting enthusiasm, I want to tell a story about how helpful the first two parts of waste management (Reduce – Reuse – Recycle) can be for writers. If you’re like me and you switch between paper and word-processor when drafting, I may have found a way of saving some money on reams of paper.

When I started out writing for anything (school or fun), we only had a mindset for text on one side of the page when printing. After all, it’s professional, neat, and simple. We only have to flip to the next page, instead of remembering to look at the back.

And then my family got a printer where there was the option to print on both sides. My teenage world was blown. My essays and other writings were that much closer to looking like the pages of books that were published. Text on both sides!

It was only when I was working on some project with my dad that changed my perception of printing once more. I had messed up on a page I think. I felt guilty, thinking of how much paper I was wasting to get it right. Then my dad said “just print on the other side. It’s only a draft, so it doesn’t matter.” He gave me a few of his work papers he was just going to throw away to use, until I got it right. THIS is what I’m talking about when I said the first two parts of waste management can help writers. Especially when drafting, REUSE paper you’re just going to RECYCLE anyway as long as it has a completely blank side.

When I went to college, I really started implementing this reusing method. In the library and classroom hallways, I walked by countless recycle bins weighed down with expired, graded essays or drafts of students and professors alike. To my delight, I found that many of the binned pages had an entire, completely blank side just waiting to be written on. These people were throwing out perfectly good one-sided paper! So I fished out paper one day at a time. Soon I had accumulated stacks (and when I say stacks, I mean REAMS) of essays, pop quizzes, and notes from the bins, keeping only those that had a blank side. I got weird looks from my roommates when I returned with a bag full of paper, removing staples at the table, but I didn’t care. After all, I wasn’t going to read these extinct pages anyway. Sometimes I went through them, X-ing out the text already printed. It didn’t matter to me if they carried top-secret information or the recipe for cookies and cream ice-cream. All I cared about was how much I was saving by reusing one-sided paper when it came to printing and editing drafts of my stories.

Now I sit with over a dozen reams of reused, one-sided paper, waiting to be marked with my words. It’s one less thing I have to worry about when drafting because I’m always snatching away pieces of one-sided paper whenever I may come across one about to be or already discarded (so long as it’s clean). I hope you took away a method to liberate your desire to print drafts without worry of buying lots of paper. While printing on both sides is a great option too, why not reuse paper already condemned to be recycled too? Whatever your situation in life may be (at an office, school, lab), try looking out for one-sided paper that’s going to be recycled and try, just once, using it for your next draft. I’m not putting down recycling. It’s an essential leg of waste management, but it’s the last one. We have to remember two steps come before it.


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