The problem with paper

Ask the staff on our exhibition for how we could help improve our impact on the environment and you always get one answer: “argh, paper!” We give out programmes to visitors, we print out colouring in sheets, we print notes out for meetings, we put on activities that use paper.

The problem is that no one values a piece of paper. We buy them, we print on them, we throw them away. So what can we do to make this better? There are few ideas knocking around the place.

Plan 1: More recycling. Some of that paper just ends up in the bin, when it could be recycled. We’re working on that. Research has shown, though, that providing recycling encourages people to use more paper. We think in strange ways, us humans.

Plan 2: Reuse the paper. This uses less energy than recycling, and it can still be recycled afterwards. Our Making Space gets through quite a bit of the scrap paper from other parts of the Science Centre, turning it into flying saucers or superhero masks. So do our gerbils, Orville and Wilbur, who like nothing better than digging around in some shredded paper.

Plan 3: Find alternatives. We’ve had a few ideas to reduce giving out paper: QR codes to find digital versions of the day’s programme on your phone; drawing on chalk boards rather than paper; and laminating our daily checklist that we use to check everything is working and ready for the day so that they can be wiped off and reused.

Anyway, a few tiny changes to how we do things could make a huge difference to the amount of paper we get through. Either that or we’re going to need bigger gerbils.

Newcastle Gateshead Cultural Venues are working together on the first Green Week, from Monday 11 – Sunday 17 September 2017. The week aims to raise awareness of environmental issues, and will focus on five main areas: paper, water, food waste, energy and travel.

Find out more about NGCV Green Week >

About Naomi Foster

I’m a Public Engagement Officer. My job involves developing science shows and public workshops, organising lectures for big people and our preschool days for little people. Any excuse to play! I’ll be keeping you posted about some of the things I’ve got coming up.

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