Going Green Commitment: Day 18…An Encounter With Super Erasable Paper Man

Another Monday of the ‘Going Green Commitment’ allows us to further examine situations where Paper is used in our everyday life and how we can better solve the issue of wasted paper and harmful use patterns in the lifestyle that has developed in our home. But another important arena where we find ourselves using massive amounts of paper is in our workplaces. My wife is a fourth grade teacher and her classroom goes through piles of paper everyday: Handwriting practice, spelling tests, art projects, math equations, are all done primarily on paper. Most of her students do not have computers in the classroom or at home either, so the homework she sends home is on paper as well. It is difficult to distribute all of that paper and still keep a tight maintenance on where it gets put and how it is reused or recycled in a classroom with thirty crazy ten year olds.

Similarly, in my work place, large amounts of paper are used each day to print off emails, reports and other information that is mostly used for a single day and then thrown away or recycled. While our office is mindful of our environment and recycles paper, it still must go through the process of being recycled and put back into circulation.

As I was about to take an email I had printed out to show a colleague this morning and then throw it into the local recycling bin, I heard trumpets playing triumphant music and out of nowhere came ‘Super Erasable Paper Man’ to the rescue. He revealed to me one of his top secret projects in eliminating paper waste products: “I am devising a way to create a printed paper that will dissolve in 16-24 hours, leaving you a clean and reusable sheet of paper that you can print your emails and other documents on over and over again without having to throw it away.” He whispered to me in a hushed, yet high pitched tone, probably because his spandex pants were a bit too small. “The technology, which is still in a preliminary state, blurs the line between paper documents and digital displays”

“Brilliant,” I said.

“Of course!” He replied. “I have also developed a prototype “printer” that creates the image on the paper using a light bar that provides a specific wavelength of light as a writing source. The written image fades naturally over time or can be immediately erased by exposing it to heat.”

“Impossible,”I shouted.

“Nothing is impossible for Super Erasable Paper Man,” He exclaimed triumphantly. “I have flown and traveled all over the world and have seen the devastation caused by overused paper and I am resolved to create a solution that can save the world. As as many as two out of every five pages printed in the offices I saw are for what I call “daily” use, like e-mails, Web pages and reference materials that have been printed for a single viewing. Despite our reliance on computers to share and process information, there is still a strong dependence on the printed page for reading and absorbing content. Of course, we’d all like to use less paper, but we know from talking with customers that many people still prefer to work with information on paper. Self-erasing documents for short-term use offers the best of both worlds.”

“I agree,” I said in agreement.

“Of course you do,” he said in his high-pitched voice

“So when will you save the world and free us from our repititive paper processing?” I asked in eager expectation, hoping he could pull out a newly created and ready to use erasable printer and paper somewhere out from behind his spandex and cape.

“Oh my dear normal human,” he replied in a patronizing tone, ” While potential users have shown interest in transient documents, there is still much to be done if the technology is to be commercialized.”

Disappointed, I started to cry. When would there be an answer to the guilt I feel every time I recycle a piece of paper, knowing that I would never see that same piece of paper again?

“But have no fear,” he puffed out his chest and exclaimed, “I will never sleep nor rest until the lonely recycled piece of paper is avenged and rescued” And just like that he flew through the roof of our building, bring debris and damage done into our office area, but at least we had a skylight.

My heart leaped with excitement after our encounter, anticipating and awaiting the day when erasable paper and printers make their way to my office.

–adapted from an article on Experimental Paper from Xerox.–

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