Killing Trees: The Never-Ending Quest for Scrap Paper

Early on in this blog, I wrote about reducing my carbon footprint, linking to a calculator that estimates your enviornmental imact.  One section they should have had: “Are you a physics grad student?  If so, we will increase your carbon footprint to take into account all the trees that you will kill doing homework sets this year.”

Physics homework sets are notorious for taking multiple pages per problem (although they’re not as bad as some of the math classes that I’ve taken).  And this is just for the final finished solutions — don’t forget the paper that I waste on the false starts and dead-end approaches to problems.  Another factor that contributes to my tree-killing is that I typically work through an assignment in a very nonlinear fashion: starting a problem, getting stuck, starting a new problem, hitting a wall, going back to an earlier problem, etc.  Because of this, I may end up with each problem on its own separate sheet(s) of paper.  I feel bad about wasting paper, but there’s really no other way to work through the problem sets.

In an effort to cut down on my paper wasting, I’ve become a voracious scavenger for scrap paper.  I hoard the extra homework printouts from the classes I TA for, and I raid the place by the printer where unwanted printouts live.  Now, when I get an idea of how to approach a problem, I try it out on the scrap paper to see if it looks promising before I put it down in my trademark yellow legal pad.

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On a side note, it’s been awhile since my last post.  The hiatus was prompted by my first two grad school tests and the studying that preceded them (not to mention the laziness that followed them!)  I do have a couple of other topics that I’ve been meaning to get to, so make sure you stay tuned, as I hope to get to them sooner rather than later (and definitely before the next round of tests).

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1 Response to “Killing Trees: The Never-Ending Quest for Scrap Paper”



  1. 1 The Virtues of Scrap Paper « Learning and Teaching Math Trackback on January 8, 2010 at 9:49 AM

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