Paper Clip Math

Have you ever thought about why saving paper clips might matter for reasons beyond knowing where to find one the next time you need one? Let’s break it down together!

One small paperclip = .5 grams of steel. If you throw away just 5 paper clips per month, that adds up to 30 grams of steel each year.

According to a study conducted at MIT, steel-making is responsible for up to 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the EPA (as cited by CO2list.org), each ton of steel produced emits 2 tons of CO2E.

And according to the 2010 US census, there are 243,275,505 people ages 16+ in the United States.

This means that if each of us throws away usable paper clips at a rate equivalent to 5/month, the combined annual waste of manufactured steel – in thrown away paper clips – equates to more than 7 billion grams (or 8045 tons) of steel, and more than 16,089 tons of CO2E.

But what does this mean? Well, to ‘digest’ these 16,089 tons of CO2E would require 378,286 tree seedlings, allowed to grow for 10 years.

This impact is also the CO2E equivalent of burning more than 15.5 million pounds of coal — or driving nearly 35 million miles in an automobile.

If we can’t wrap our heads around the environmental math, at least we can wrap our heads around the aggregate shortsightedness of landfilling more than 8000 tons of perfectly useful clips while buying 11 billion more. Every year.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be parlaying what we’re learning about the inherent value of existing paper clips and environmental factors into a broader perspective about how we can each have a positive impact on the environmental challenges facing all of us – and future generations.

Be on the lookout for articles about how to find the used goods you need, ways to think differently about what you actually do need in order to accomplish your objective, and more.

We’ve learned a lot – and we’re eager to share!

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