When I was majoring in computer science at the University of Lousiana in Lafayette, I was a member of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM). One of our ACM meetings was attended by Captain Grace Hopper (she had not earned the rank of Admiral yet) who had invented the COBOL programming language. She talked about one of her early programs and how her commander told her that her algorithm wasted a nanosecond. She was curious just how much a nanosecond was, so she figured it out. She held up a piece of wire about twelve inches in length. This was the distance that electrical impulses that represented computer 1's and 0's could travel in one nanosecond. She made her point.
I was taking notes on paper today and made a mistake. I decided to throw away the piece of paper and start over. That got me to thinking about how much tree growing I had just wasted. In other words, "How long does it take the average tree to grow an 8.5" by 11" piece of paper?"
I asked ChatGPT and learned:
The length of time it takes for a tree to grow one 8.5 by 11" piece of paper depends on several factors, such as the species of tree, environmental conditions, and management practices.
However, on average, it takes about 6 to 8 years for a fast-growing softwood tree, such as a pine or spruce, to grow large enough to be harvested for making paper. For slower-growing hardwood trees, such as oak or maple, it can take up to 20 years or more to reach a size suitable for papermaking.
It's important to note that paper is typically made from the pulp of many trees, not just one. So, while a single tree may not produce enough pulp for one sheet of paper, many trees are used in the production of paper products.
I Googled around and found that the average tree yields 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333 sheets. So using the conservative estimate of 8 years (without leap years) and doing the math:
one sheet = 8 years x 365 days x 24 hours / 8333 sheets = 38.23 hours
So every time you crumple up a piece of paper, recognize that you're wasting about a day and a half of a tree's growing life. As I am a regular note-taker and doodler, months ago, I considered replacing my spiral-bound notebook with a ReMarkable device. Then I read reviews that mentioned:
- Handwritten conversion to text varies greatly depending on penmanship.
- Documents with lots of images in addition to text load slowly.
- Battery life is nothing to brag about.
Have any of you used a ReMarkable tablet? If so what has your experience been? Do most of you type your notes using a PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, Surface, or iPad? I still use a physical notebook for my personal notes, but everything else has been digitized. Our work at Autodesk truly has been a paperless office for decades.
Pondering waste is alive in the lab.