Paperless World

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Students living in a paperless world

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You really shouldn’t be reading this. No, I’m not telling you to stop reading my column. As a writer, I believe in the power of the written word, in the importance of journalism, in the First Amendment — all that jazz. What I’m really saying is that it would be a lot better, in terms of eco-friendliness, if you weren’t reading this column here, in print, on paper. According to the most recent survey by Inform, an environmental education nonprofit, paper products make up the largest share of solid waste in the United States. This country is also the largest paper consumer in the world, with one person going through an average of 663 pounds each year. It’s not that these paper products are unnecessary. Students need textbooks, and consumers need to read the news. But the past several years have seen such improvements in electronic readers and other eco-friendly technologies that a paperless world is now possible. Almost all media have begun the transition away from print. Not to state the obvious, but those of you who are holding a newspaper right now could be reading this column on The Daily Tar Heel’s website, which has seen an enormous increase in quality and traffic in recent years. In fact, some publications have shifted toward online-only content.  The Christian Science Monitor only produces a print edition once a week, and CosmoGirl now exists only as a website. A similar trend has emerged in a product on which we students are unfortunately dependent: textbooks. It’s now possible to purchase and read many required textbooks online. The University should encourage this trend by educating professors, who may not be as technologically savvy as their students, about the viability of online textbooks. UNC could set a realistic goal, perhaps five years, for phasing out paper textbooks. And that ridiculously wasteful instrument of torture, the course pack, should...
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