Far from trampling through lush forests with chainsaws revving, aggressively slashing and burning our way through stacks of lumber, we destroy trees in a much more efficient and innocent fashion. We click the double space button every time we turn in a paper.
This simple act doesn’t give us some sick natural resource consuming pleasure. It is an act forced upon us: Double space or face point deductions. Our professors hold us hostage to stringent format guidelines that demand double-spaced lines and one inch margins. This amounts to state-sponsored eco-terrorism.
The practice of double-spacing is so commonplace that few notice the utterly astonishing volume of paper those extra lines waste.
Every student at UCSB must satisfy a general education writing requirement, which consists of six classes, each requiring a paper of 1,800 words. Using one inch margins, double-spaced lines and 12-point font, 1,800 words equals approximately six pages. Upon graduation, every student has consumed 36 pages of paper just to satisfy his or her writing requirement. In a four-year period, around 20,000 students will graduate. 20,000 students multiplied by 36 pages equals 720,000 pieces of paper consumed – half of which is blank space as a result of double-spacing.
Those wasted blank pages could form 720 reams of paper since a ream contains 500 sheets. A single ream is about 2.5 inches tall. If stacked on top of each other, 720 reams would stretch 150 feet into the air. Storke Tower is the highest structure around for miles at 175 feet tall.
In reality, the UCSB student population wastes far more than 720 reams of paper every four-year period due to double spacing – the average student writes many more than six papers over their entire four or five year college education.
If every student wrote one six page double-spaced paper per quarter, which is probably another grossly conservative estimate, we would all consume 1,440,000 pages in four years. In this case, the 720,000 wasted pages of white space between double-spaced lines would fill 1440 reams, stretching 300 feet into the air if stacked – almost the height of two Storke Towers.
In the face of these numbers, environmental conservancy groups on campus should be outraged that such needless destruction of natural resources on campus is occurring under their noses. A concerted effort by UCSB Associated Students and Environmental Affairs Board members could end this problem. Banning double-spaced papers on campus would cost no money, take no time and have immediate positive results – qualities of the ultimate public policy initiative for any politician.
Ending the double-spacing of papers on campus would save students money since there is 50 percent less paper to buy. It would save teaching assistants and professors energy since stacks of turned in papers awaiting grades would be 50 percent lighter, and thus more easily carried.
Single-spaced papers might be more difficult to read, but newspapers get away with it just fine. I think TAs would gladly strain their eyes a little harder if they understood how much they were contributing to a highly effective environmental conservation effort. Professors who use blank space between lines to make comments might be out of luck if UCSB outlaws double-spacing, but most professors write comments in a few sentences at the end of an essay or research paper anyway.
I’ve heard some professors in the Dept. of Environmental Studies mandate their students single space their papers and print them front to back, thus cutting paper consumption by 75 percent in comparison with more widely used double-spaced and one inch margin formatting standards. Kudos.
UCSB often takes the lead on environmental conservation techniques, such as energy efficient green building. With little effort, we can take the lead again by slashing our paper consumption by 50 percent. All it takes is single-spacing our papers.
Eco-warrior and Daily Nexus assistant county editor Daniel Haier submitted this article on an old gum wrapper in 2-point font.