Yesterday I put not one, not two, but three flyers in the recycling bin after digging them out from the bottom of my bag. All three of these small scraps of paper were handed to me on Locust Walk and, if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t even know what events or clubs they were promoting. When a peer offers me a flyer on Locust Walk advertising their upcoming show or asking me to Venmo their club for a worthy cause, I feel rude to dismiss them because they’re putting in the work to advertise what they’re passionate about. But I promise you that I’m not going to read the flyer I’ve been handed, which ultimately makes it a waste of paper and money. Clubs on Penn’s campus can be doing more to actively combat our carbon footprints, and eliminating the practice of handing out flyers on Locust Walk is one small way to make a difference.
I would also like to acknowledge that this article is going to go to print, which means these words will be inked on paper that will be passed out on Locust Walk, but this is necessary for newspapers and not so much for clubs. Banners strung up along Locust Walk advertising opening nights or upcoming events for their respective clubs are enough to get the message across.
Last year, Swarthmore College tallied how much paper they were printing: “Last Fall (2017) from September 4th to December 23rd, we printed 1,259,649 pages, of which nearly 82% were 2-sided (Duplex). That’s 11,348 pages per day (average), 9.25 trees worth of paper, 6,402 kg of CO2, and 210,921 equivalent bulb hours of electricity.” Now consider the fact that Swarthmore’s undergraduate population is only about 1/10 of Penn’s. Penn students should cut down on some of our paper usage, and the flyers that no one reads are a good place to start. Not to mention the fact that many of these small pieces of paper end up drifting down Locust Walk anyway, tossed to the wayside by hurried students and left as sad reminders of the daily waste we don’t even consider.
More positively, we live in the era of social media, which would simply be a more effective way of broadcasting club news. There are aspects of student life here that inevitably create waste — especially when Penn has still not divested the $13.8 billion endowment despite students advocating tirelessly for it. But until larger structural changes occur, students have a responsibility to help curb their waste production in any way they can. It’s our futures that will pay the price. This includes small steps, like ceasing the unnecessary printing of flyers to pass out on Locust Walk. I’m sure I’m not the only one with scraps of unread paper crushed in the bottom of my bag. If you’re with me, I say let these be the last flyers to go to waste.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a College junior from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email is email@example.com.