My challenge

I am quitting paper.

That’s right.  For my change challenge, I will refusing to use paper from now on.  I have been a big proponent of recycling paper in the past, but it is now time move past just recycling up the ‘value chain’, through reusing paper, to reducing my paper use.  To zero.

For this challenge, I will be following three self-imposed rules:

  1. I will not take or accept paper if it given to me.
  2. I will not produce paper products, i.e. I will not print anything.
  3. If I cannot follow rules one and two, and there is an unavoidable use of paper, I will document the use of any paper that I do use, why I could not avoid it, how it could be avoided in the future, and importantly, do something about it.

It is my hope that I will be able to reduce my paper use to as close to zero as possible.  In the process, I hope to, and plan on, facing down the barriers to eliminating my paper use.  It is my hope that after I have completed this change challenge, I will have changed any barriers I find along the way to make it easier for others to go paperless as well.

Before anyone asks, this is not because I hate paper.  I love paper.  I have lots of paper and paper products.  I love books, I love notes, I love the holding and reading paper.  But there are two reasons why I have decided to try to eliminate paper from my life.

  1. Paper has a large environmental impact.  As part of this challenge, I plan on examining exactly what that impact is (and how it compares with the alternative of using electronic media to store information), but suffice to say that using paper results in an input of trees (reducing carbon in forests), much energy to produce (again, carbon to produce that energy) and disposal in landfill when done with.  While reduced when paper is recycled, there is still an impact from paper use.  I want to eliminate this environmental impact.
  2. Paper is heavy and takes up too much space.  A big motivator for me is that when I moved from Canada to the UK, over half of my personal stuff that I stored was books and paper.  Seriously.  More than clothes and sports gear combined, paper was my largest single source of stuff.  I do not want to gather more paper, and hope to come out of this year in Cambridge with no increase in my already massive collection.  The first step of dealing with an addiction is admitting you have a problem, and I freely and openly admit it here:  I have a paper problem, and it now stops.  I will move on from that ‘legacy technology’, and embrace new technology.

That is my challenge ahead, and why I am doing it.  You can help me by calling me on my paper use.  If you see me with paper in my hand, call me on it.  Ask me where I got it, why I have it, could I have avoided it, have I documented it; all these questions will help me go paperless.

Thanks for joining my journey.

Be paperless,


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7 Responses to My challenge

  1. esd says:

    good stuff and great challenge. I suspect I’m going to feature on your ‘sin list’ for forcing paper use on you but at least I am aware! 🙂

  2. davismaks says:

    Great stuff….You and I are on very similar challenges and I suggest that in this case many minds are better than one. There are also a couple of other people on the course doing this kind of challenge. Let’s pool our resources and get a real change going amongst the class!
    Be interested to see what lessons you learn along the way 😉

  3. davismaks says:

    Micah…how’s your challenge going mate? I’m finding mine to be a real up-and-down struggle!
    Let me know if an iPad is the way forward….

    • micahmelnyk says:

      It has been a bit of a struggle in certain moments, particularly when we get hand outs in class that are only available in hard copy, rather than online.

      As for the iPad, did you check out my love letter to my iPad?


  4. stephihirmer says:

    Hello Micah,

    I really think this is a great challenge and I certainly agree with your points how it affects our environment and uses up a lot of space. As we heard in class from others and from personal experience, many people waste a lot of paper. Unfortunately, I can’t change to NO paper – I really wish I could. But having a specific learning difficulty (such as dyslexia) already places a major burden on my abilities to study effectively.
    I have recently been refused disability student allowances as I lived outside of the EU prior to the start of course, hence all requirements to let me work more effectively have to be funded by myself. Unfortunately this includes purchasing paper. I have noticed that some lecturers have already started to use less paper, a very big disadvantage for me. As soon as I arrive at home I have to print the required pages myself adding notable costs to my already tight student budget. Here are some of my thoughts:

    – Ensure that students in need get the pages printed – the department could check prior to the start of course how many students are affected and hence only print the required number of copies
    – Lecture slides for these students should be printed in advance or at least available on the web; so students have the option to print prior to class
    – Enforce change in regards to printing quantity – double pages, multiple pages per sheet

    All the best with your challenge and I hope you will consider some of the points mentioned above.

    Good luck,

    • micahmelnyk says:


      You make some good points about the potential impact that a switch to no paper will have on those that can’t use an alternative technology. I thinking about doing a blog post where I will look at my challenge in terms of the traditional three legged sustainable development model, including the environment, economic and social factors. The impacts on others certainly fits into the social factors, and your suggestions as to how a move to paperless could be done while minimizing the social impacts are very welcome!

      Thanks for commenting!


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