Monday, December 24, 2007

Flier Napkins

I was telling you about I doing nothing for a week after the completion of Fall-2007 semester. That included checking my mailbox. I realized I hadn't checked my mailbox for over a week when one of my classmates called to request me to pick mails from her mailbox during the winter break. She and her husband were going out of town to meet their families. When I did check my mail day before yesterday, I noticed my mailbox was almost gagging. No, I'm not so popular; my box hardly had any personal mails; the box was mostly filled with junk mails, and fliers from different shopping establishments. The number of fliers probably peaks during holiday season, but it's not like businesses don't send any fliers during other times of the year. I wonder how many hectares of forest must be getting cut for this purpose. Of course, individuals have the option of subscribing to advertisements only through electronic mail. I have myself done that for few businesses like Walmart, Bestbuy and Circuit City. However, it is difficult to stop all fliers. Most people don't want to take the trouble of unsubscribing to fliers. Additionally, some people actually enjoy going through the colorful fliers. Others like taking advantage of the coupons and deals that show up in these advertisements.

I don't know the statistics, but I am sure that the local advertisements and junk mail must be contributing to significant amount of deforestation. I am tempted to say that such advertisements should be banned, but I know it won't work because both the corporations and customers benefit from such advertisements. The next best thing would probably be recycling. However, recycling though an effective means to reduce global warming, involves a lot of initiative from everyone. It requires effort to find out and separate what can and cannot be recycled. The even bigger problem is that many cities don't have fully functional recycling programs. Recycling works only for conscientious and concerned people, but unfortunately all of us don't have those characteristics. That is the reason, recycling despite potentially being one of the most effective methods to protect our environment, has not worked at a global scale. For example, at my university, I still see people printing on one side only, or throwing used paper in trash instead of the recycle bin.

Coming back to fliers, I propose that advertisements be printed on paper that can be used as paper napkins or toilet paper. I am not a huge fan of paper napkins and toilet paper. I believe in washing instead of dry wiping. Handwashing is more hygienic than just wiping ones hand dry, and can prevent a lot of upper respiratory tract infections and gastrointestinal tract infections. However, I also realize that paper towels have their advantages in terms of convenience, and that the majority of Americans use them habitually. Hence, fliers that could double up as paper napkins will not only save forests, but will also save consumers a few dollars every month on the cost of paper towels. The consumers will be grateful and more loyal to the business establishment that starts this practice. That seems like a win-win solution where everyone benefits without any extra cost. The business establishment that starts this practice, in fact, may save money because paper used in napkins I think is cheaper than glossy papers. I guess businesses may worry that the pictures of their products may not look as glossy as they do now, but isn't the matted look more classy? But do use good and non-toxic colors in your advertisement napkins; you don't want your customers' face to be smeared in mercury red or prussian blue.

Recycling will be more effective when the motivation behind it is not just on moral grounds but on grounds of economics and convenience. The best recycling is when a single product offers multiple uses, thereby obviating the need to buy or use multiple products.

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