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.