Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

Back on Moral High Ground February 23, 2012

Filed under: Books — katblogger @ 6:01 PM
Tags: , ,

I generally have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of technology. I don’t like it, and it definitely doesn’t like me. Two days ago, I forced myself to go around taking pictures for the school newspaper. The button worked, it made a clicking sound… but when I got back, we discovered that the camera hadn’t taken any pictures. No one could fix it either. Whether caused by bad luck or my propensity for accidentally destroying electronics, this is really quite typical.

So naturally, I am a staunch defender of printed books even as e-readers seem ready to wipe them out of existence. “Real books are solid,” I argue. “You can smell them, turn their pages, write in the margins, have your favorite author sign them… they’re better.”

To which e-reader defenders respond with a list of impressive statistics. E-readers hold more books, take up less space, and – the final winning point – they’re better for the environment.

This final argument always made me sulk. I’m all for the environment, and I was aware that my love for paper books meant cutting down more trees. I just couldn’t make those two opinions align.

Then I really started thinking about it. I’d always taken it for granted that e-readers were better, environmentally speaking. But once I considered things more, it became a lot less clear.

Both products  need to be manufactured. However, I’m willing to bet that books take a lot less in terms of machinery needed, energy used, and raw materials/waste produced. Books are paper, ink, covers, and binding. E-readers have screens, casing, electronics, and all sorts of crazy gadgets these days.

The make-up of both products was the most interesting to me. Books are primarily paper. There are other ingredients, yes, but the majority of their mass is made out of paper. Paper is recyclable, and it can be renewed by planting more trees. Books, once they’re in the trash, will break down fairly quickly.

On the other hand, e-readers contain plastics, glass, rubber, and electronics. I’m sure there’s more stuffed inside as well. Any metal used is non-renewable. You can’t magic more ores into existence. The use of plastic is another concern. *puts on HL Chemistry nerd hat* Because of the nature of the bonds in plastic polymers, plastics never break down. Ever. Even if the earth was vaporized, some of that vapor would be plastic molecules, all their atoms securely in place. Think about that for a moment. Every piece of plastic ever made will and always will exist somewhere. Do we really want to keep making more?

That’s not even mentioning the electricity that constantly is needed to power the e-reader.  Plus, they need batteries – a nemesis of the natural world, full of acid and other fun stuff.

Finally, I looked it up. According to the Sierra Club, the e-reader is less environmentally friendly unless you’re buying over 23 books a year. Another source said that you must read 100 books (that you otherwise would have bought) on an e-reader before things break even.

Everyone agrees that there’s one definite winner in environmentally friendly reading: the library. Hundreds of people can share the same book, and there’s no damaging technology involved.

Either way, the environmental debate isn’t as clear as you might think, and I can go on reading my paper books with a clear conscience.


Dying Was Not on My To-Do List for Today! May 25, 2011

Filed under: In the News — katblogger @ 5:14 PM

And yet it was becoming a legitimate concern. Wedged between a trash can and another student, my back against the cracked plaster wall, I tried to block out the noise of a hundred panicked high schoolers. It wasn’t easy.

Thanks to a combination of various weather patterns and anomalies, the Midwest is being ripped apart by storms this week. Today, I was in the path of several of these storms. Which led to the situation mentioned above.

Luckily, I survived, just as I survived last night’s close call. (Although I only kept my sanity over that long evening by liberal listening to the How To Train Your Dragon soundtrack.) But I easily could not have. And some people didn’t. We see them on the news – just another number in a total that keeps growing as the days go by. We only see the numbers, forgetting that those numbers symbolize people: mothers, fathers, students, children, doctors, librarians… and when the next storm comes, any of us could just as easily have our entire lives crushed into a tally mark. Kind of sobering, isn’t it?

I don’t mean to be a downer. But I just think that  next time you see a list of deaths on the television – dehumanized by a nice, sanitary pair or trio of digits – you consider what they really mean. And then the numbers aren’t so friendly anymore.


*singing* It’s Earth Day, Earth Day… Sorry April 22, 2011

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 1:44 PM

My Rebecca Black kick is over. Sorry about that. I couldn’t help it. It is Friday, after all.

Anyway, whether you’ve been counting down to April 22nd or just get your current events from the Google logo, you probably know it’s Earth Day today. The day where we care about our planet and only home. I don’t see why you wouldn’t, considering at this point there’s nowhere else we can go, but whatever. Today even the jerky polluting mega-corporations have to pretend to care.

So what can we do, besides playing with the interactive Google logo? Well, I was planning to continue my CAS project of cleaning up the local creek/green space. It’s dirty and nasty, but also interesting. One never knows what one might find while stream cleaning. Rusted hedge clippers? A huge pile of bricks? A soldering gun? A carriage wheel stuck in concrete? A car sunk in the water? Why not? I will admit that we only picked up the hedge clippers and the soldering gun. Don’t judge – we only get two bags of trash per week. And I’d like to see you stick a car in a plastic trash bag and put it out on the curb. Even if it is a two seater.  

Unfortunately, at the moment it is raining. And while rain is lovely, it prevents me from trekking through the woods and picking up trash. Why? One word – mud. Lots of it. Perhaps it’s cruel to neglect the planet for reasons of cleanliness, but the trash will be there tomorrow. Increased exponentially, trust me.

So what else can we do? I encourage anyone who doesn’t recycle to start. The planet doesn’t contain infinite resources – we have to make do with what we have. Did you know that the formation of aluminum from bauxite ore releases toxic gasses? Neither did I, but now I feel bad whenever I toss aluminum foil in the trash, and get upset when I see soda cans not being recycled. Of course, I’m the girl who feels guilty using lots of tissues when I have a head cold because they’re not recyclable (that would just be nasty) so I’m a little crazy.

Anyway, there are lots of ways to help the environment. In the end, it’s benefiting us anyway. Loving nature isn’t just for hippies in bell bottoms and tie dye – everyone should be proud to be a tree hugger. Even him:


Right in time for Earth Day indeed.


To Litterbugs: October 17, 2010

Filed under: Whatever — katblogger @ 12:23 AM


Hey, Mother Nature here! I’ve got a little message for all you morons who chuck stuff out your car window. I don’t care what it is: beer cans, Quiktrip cups, cigarette butts… trash. Seriously. If you chuck one more Taco Bell wrapper into my forests, I’m going to personally arrange a delivery of scat through your bedroom window.

I mean, I know many of you humans are remarkably self-centered. But consider this – if you poison my streams and my soil, it’s you who will die. I am immortal, you are decidedly not. And if you manage to starve yourselves out of existence, I will have millions of years to repair myself before the next super-species evolves. So next time you toss that bottle out of your car instead of driving the five minutes to a location with a trash can, remember that you’re killing yourself one bottle at a time.