Brown Cover Paper Vs Colorful Naked Notebooks

By Madhurie Singh, June 09, 2010


On Saturday night at 12:00am, I sat down to cover the notebooks of my children whose new school term was going to start on the 7th June 2010.

The rolls of brown paper were a tedious thing to open and cut and then to fold the sides to finally cover the notebooks and the text books.

After 20 minutes of cutting the brown paper sheets, my back was talking to me in pain. I called my husband for help, while the kids were fast asleep. We both started to mechanically cut, fold and tape the brown paper on the big stack of notebooks one by one.

I remembered an incident when I was in 6th grade and I had never told this to anyone else. I told my husband how in that summer vacation, I heard my mom about how expensive it is to educate four kids, while she was on phone!

I quietly called my school, and spoke to Sister Emmaculate, my class teacher. I asked her if covering with brown paper was compulsory as it was expensive for my parents!  She spoke to the Father of the school and told me that it was not compulsory to use brown paper at all!

I was very very happy that had I saved my parents some money and announced to my mom that this time we will cover with news paper only as the school said so!  That year onwards the school announced that brown paper was not compulsory and preferably news papers should be used for covering the notebooks. I had no idea what was the implication of this decision on the environment as in those days, environment was still green. My husband looked at me with horror and said, I am glad you did not disclose it to your father that he could not afford brown paper, when he was head of the public sector unit then! I still think I did nothing wrong.

Two decades later, today, I think it will make a very big contribution to keep the mother earth green and healthy, if all schools decide to do away with the covering of the notebooks with brown paper or any other paper as a matter of fact!

Why should there be any need to cover the colorful and bright, hard bound notebooks at all!  As it is after a month, they are torn off from here and there, giving the cover a shabby look. What is the need to hide the picture or the brand name of the notebook? The moment we cover the notebooks, they start looking so boring and lifeless. What is the need to cover any notebook? Can you think of any?

I guess when the paper industry was born, some bright marketing strategists must have thought of this brilliant idea. He would have done the calculations  and found the massive revenue that can be generated if all the schools made it compulsory to cover the notebooks with brown paper year after year!

May be the company convinced the school authorities about the neatness and the uniform looks after covering the notebooks.
May be the paper industry jointly donated huge funds to various trend setting schools.
It might have not occurred to the school authorities then as to what could be the implications of their decision on the nature, but today we are the thinking Indians who have realized that conserving the resources of the nature has to be everyone’s primary concern.

The step can be as simple as not covering the hard bound notebooks but its effect will be humongous and green.

It would be more practical if the paper and notebook manufacturing companies, provide a label printed on the hard cover itself. That way the need for any extra label is also not there, thus saving the money and the time for the common people like us but a major conservation step for our mother earth.

Some would argue, that brown paper ensures more organized looks. But don’t you think, it’s the child, the parent or the teacher who is actually organizing books in any order! If brown paper cover ensure long lasting, why all the books in big libraries are not covered with brown paper! Those books are the once that are handled daily and weekly by several different hands.

May be its time we take a tiny pledge to do our bit by talking to the school authorities of either convincing them about the effect of not using any covers or of getting convinced that we are robots who will not think but only follow what has been happening since years!

Lets do some maths and see how this tiny decision will affect us and our nature.

How do we know the result of the act of not using brown paper?

The size of tree will naturally decide how many trees needed to cut to produce some X number of papers. But for the sake of simplicity,  as per Paper Manufacturer Boise Cascade, when wood logs are stacked one next to another of the size of a square that is 4 feet X 4 feet, of the height upto 8 feet high; this HUGE stack of tree logs produces ONLY 90,000 sheets of news paper size; which is ONLY equal to 54,00,000 pages of notebook; which is equal to 27000 notebooks only!!!!

SO if each kid uses 10 notebooks maximum, only 2700 kids use that huge stack of trees in a year! And after all the calculation assuming there are 12 grades of 5 sections in a school, ONLY ONE school is using up all the paper for a year! Imagine in Pune itself there are close to 100 schools!

The maths of the whole brown paper to tree felling boils down to close to 20 – 30 trees chopped down every year for something that is useless, non practical and non essential.

I have not considered the plastic coating in this article, which in itself becomes a challenge to biodegradability.

Also there are brown papers manufactured from recycled papers which definitely reduces the tree felling by 60%.

There are many substitute raw materials which can be used for making paper, but which involves a total paradigm shift in paper industry, as it calls for entirely new set of  machinery.

references :

I am also thankful for friends who contributed in the discussion on the use of brown paper: Milind Date, Paurnima, Aishah Shaikh, Manish Singh, Dr Vishal Gupta.

Vikhe Patil School encourages keeping Books & Notebooks Nude. Brown or any other covers are strictly NOT allowed as a gesture towards Eco Friendly School...

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