Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Natural Living: How to Use/and or Print Online Materials

Dear Parents,

Are you still on a learning curve with all the online resources out there?

Did you know you can save hundreds and perhaps thousands of trees a year by using online books and materials? It takes some time to get used to and it is a gradual process but the end result is worth it for the environment, for your organization at home, for your budget, and for the future of our earth.

One reason I avoided online materials for so long was because I wanted the "feel" of the book in my hands and I wanted the book on my shelf. I felt that a book was more "natural" than using electronic books - even if it was the same book (most classic books are available for free online now). It is a bit like my struggle when I converted to digital cameras. I was a professional photographer and had been using those big sturdy manual cameras for years but the amount of waste created by the film tubes, film, and paper packaging was upsetting for me. Having worked in a photography lab in college I also knew how toxic the chemicals were for the environment. I would have to say that the person who invented digital photography has done one of the best things for the environment of anyone on earth. Although we try to keep our home as non-electric as possible I finally realized that my purchase of so many paper items (books, newspapers, magazines) was harming the environment and that by switching many of these items to a digital source I could really make a difference.

When I lived overseas for years without a public library or affordable bookstore I was even more motivated to try out the digital world. The cost of printed homeschool materials and books was also a motivating factor. Keep in mind, also, that although we in America have bookstores and/or libraries on every corner, than much of the world does not have these resources so readily available to them location-wise or budget-wise. This is an issue of the environment for some, but an issue of necessity for others.

There were a number of online resources back in 1996 when I started using them for homeschooling but using them was a challenge. Here are some of the "tricks and tips" I used to get me through those book-less years and some new ideas too:
A. Read the news online - you have access to more news that way anyway. I read from a variety of different news sources online.
B. Shop online instead of getting magazines. This can save many trees each year. Write to the companies that send you magazines and request that they stop.
C. Make sure ALL of your bills, credit cards and bank accounts bill you electronically. Most all have this as an option now, and this alone has eliminated FOUR BOXES of paper a year from my house.

For books that must be printed out (like children's books with pictures or music that you will need over and over) I use a few different methods depending on where they will be used...

1. For children's books I usually print them out on stiff water-color/recycled paper, punch holes in them and then bind them with natural yarn. This creates a charming and affordable children's book. There are some lovely children's books available for free (vintage) online with gorgeous pictures as well as some modern ones that can be downloaded for about 1/4-1/3 of the cost of the printed book. Printing at home is more energy efficient than the large printing machines used to create "real" books and uses less ink as well. You can choose to print on recycled papers, using environmentally safer products. On average you will also save 8 sheets of paper per book plus the cardboard used to make the cover. This may not seem like a big deal but over time and multiplied by hundreds of people this can make a big difference. You can also be assured that the materials you are using are disposed of properly and in an environmentally safe way. I have started offering my children's books for sale in this format at: The Dream Angels Publishing

2. You can also use photo paper if you want the pictures to pop out at your more or you want a sturdier "book", although this has less of a "natural" feel about it and is less environmentally sound.

3. When a book is going to be used often, like our verse books, I print out the pages, tuck them into plastic page savers and put them in a little folder/binder.

4. When I am printing out something like lesson plans (from http://www.earthschooling.com/) I print out only what I need and I put it in an organized binder. Some of the plans can be read and other items need to be printed out (like verses). I usually read the recipes or craft instructions off the computer screen by setting the computer near the area we will be working and then covering it with a pretty silk scarf when not in use. With stories, since I will be TELLING them rather than reading them, I usually read them the night before on the computer and then practice telling them that evening. Since the telling of the story is very personal I don't need to memorize it anyway, I just need to remember some of the details, any repeating lines and the general story line.

5. novels and longer books that you might be reading, and especially online courses I recommend reading online or using a hand-held device like the Amazon.com KINDLE. This is a reading device that allows you to read online books as if you were holding a book. It also has its own built in book-light. As a parent dedicated to Waldorf education and natural living I always consider any electronic purchases very carefully and this one has passed my "test". It is a bit like struggle when I converted to digital cameras that I mentioned above. Like I said before... the person who invented digital photography has done one of the best things for the environment of anyone on earth. I am hoping the same for the Amazon Kindle. We are a society of information and long distance communication. Even the rising gas prices are pushing more and more people to online studies (http://www.theavicennainstitute.com/) . And, as homeschoolers, we use many online resources. Using an electronic reading device can save hundreds of trees in just one year. Eventually the book industry would adapt in the same way the music industry has and we will be able to save more and more.

However, not all books can be read electronically. I am not looking to eliminate books! Just to eliminate the waste of paper on books or documents that we don't need to read over and over and have printed out ( see above). Every little bit counts. There are 650 people on this mailing list. If everyone printed out one book today instead of purchasing it we would have saved 650 book covers and over 5,000 sheets of paper! If we all read Tuesday's paper online instead of getting it on our porch we would have saved thousands and thousands of sheets of paper.

Once again, I am not advocating that everyone switch to electronics, only that we make more informed and thoughtful decisions about what books we purchase, what we print out and what we don't print. A balance, rather than going to one extreme or the other...

I hope this has helped inspire you to use some more of the online resources that are available out there today (http://www.earthschooling.com/ and http://www.thewaldorfchannel.com/ ) and has given you some ideas on how you can do that most efficiently. If you have any ideas to share please post them in the comments section.

And keep in mind that a lot of the effort here will be in getting used to thinking about what you read in a different way. Many students and parents I have worked with (in printing out hundreds of pages of online lesson plans and lessons) have initially felt the need to print out everything and organize it so they could "work better" or "see everything", but many of these same students and parents have found that this need has lessened over time.

And another helpful tip I learned from a student - if you absolutely cannot stand to have your materials online and you need to print out hundreds of pages consider logging into http://www.kinkos.com/ - you can send them PDFs (all the files at http://www.earthschooling.com/ and http://www.theavicennainstitute.com/ are in PDF) and they will print and bind it for you so you can pick it up at any of their locations around the United States. This can STILL save you money as well as paper. Printing and binding still saves at least those 8 sheets of paper and the cover.

Blessings & Health,


Anonymous said...

For me, someone struggling with Fibromyalgia, reading books on-line equals a guaranteed pain flare up. I've tried every configuration and upgraded to ergonomic chairs, positioning, tried my husband's laptop, etc. But unfortunately (sometimes), I cannot be on the computer for more than a few minutes. But it is also wonderful that I'm not spending time in front of the radiation screen and instead reading real books with pictures to my young dd in the hammock in the backyard. Just another viewpoint from a very conservative eco mama.

Kristie Karima Burns, MH, ND said...

As noted in the BLOG post, this post is intended to help those who want to use online materials and not intended to discourage people to use books! I have many shelves of books myself and with my recent knee pain (making it impossible for me to sit) I can certainly understand how this would not work for everyone. As with all healing and environmental issues it is all about balance, harmony - homeostasis of the system. We all find that in a different place. Hope you are feeling better. I am certainly not enjoying what (I hope) is a brief encounter with knee pain and being disabled by it. Blessings & Health, Kristie