The election and its paper waste is over… for now.

I am happy election day is over. Not only because we all had our chance to voice our opinions but also to reduce the amount of paper waste in my mailbox. In an ever-growing electronic world our political system still relies heavily on paper products for election season, from posters to flyers to multiple page letters. In the United States we use about 69 million tons of paper and paperboard per year, according to the EPA. In 2012 we recycled about 65 percent of that amount.

Much of the election paper waste can be recycled in our city but the process of creating, printing, delivering and recycling these products is wasteful in itself. Not all election waste, such as some yard signage, is recyclable here in Dallas. In Denver, Colorado a local recycling company found a way to recycle the political yard signs to keep them out of our landfills.

This October there was another unique ways to tackle the election season waste. In Brazil, some of the political waste (which is mostly non recyclable there) was reused by a graffiti artist, Mundano. He made a big statement utilizing all of the political election waste to make a his art piece “Lixeira Eleitoral” (“Election Waste”). The piece was a large trash bin made to looked like a voting booth stuffed full of the same political messages.

The frustration with the amount of unwanted and unneeded waste in my mailbox came at an ironic time as well. In the last few weeks, two huge reports in regard to biodiversity and climate change have come out. These reports are shouting for a seriousness in the reduction of our carbon footprints. Meanwhile, loads of paper flies into our mailbox causing our carbon footprints to soar.

In case you missed it here’s the info on the two studies:

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released the 2014 Living Planet Report with some shocking statistics. The report says between the years 1970 and 2010 populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped 52 percent. The trends for the last 40 years show a decline in terrestrial (land) and marine wildlife by 39 percent and a 76 percent decline of freshwater wildlife. That is an alarming loss of wildlife. These trends stem from the growing demands of our human population. The more people there are consuming natural resources, the more forests are cleared for agriculture, more fish are taken from the oceans and more pollution occurs.

This past week, the United Nations published the most comprehensive assessment of climate change which was produced by over 800 scientists. The assessment finds that human caused emissions of greenhouse gases has caused global climate change. This global climate change is seen in the large reduction of ice, increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rising sea levels, and more. The report urges the world to lower emissions by 40 to 70 percent globally between 2010 and 2050.

These new reports shed light on the urgency at which we should be tackling climate change. The urgency needs to translate into everyday decisions by businesses, individuals and electoral candidates.

Do politicians need the paper waste for a successful campaign? Is it even read? That’s a tough question to answer and not a lot of data out there on what is actually read. Most people in the marketing industry accept a general 2% response rate on direct mailings. A marketing company, Ask Your Target Market (AYTM) surveyed 400 online people to determine the effectiveness of direct mailing and of those 400 people only 6% said they always read printed mailings. I know I never read the printed political mailings. I prefer to get my election information elsewhere.

All of our actions impact the larger earth. I hope whoever you and I voted for on election day, printed the fewest amount of unnecessary paper items possible.

As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly (week of November 6-12th). 

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