Clothes will often automatically be washed without too much consideration because it involves little effort and because the environmental effects of that washing process remain unseen and consequently unconsidered.
Reducing paper consumption in the College has been identified as a sustainability challenge because of the associated economic and environmental costs related to the depletion of natural resources. However it is in examining the various social dimensions embedded in the attitudes, systems and structures within the school that we find the barriers to, and opportunities for, a reduction in paper consumption as part of a range of sustainability gains.
The College is a non-government high school in Canberra, with students from year 7 to 12. A study conducted by The Australia Institute in 2005 revealed that there is a correlation between a higher level of disposable income and levels of waste in Canberra, with its young people being the most wasteful in the country (Hamilton, Denniss & Baker 2005, p.viii). Drawing on this contextual study, we can assume that the students at the College are generally from a demographic that has a high level of consumption and waste.
In addition, the school can be regarded as an institution that perpetuates what Illich described as “the Myth of Unending Consumption. This modern myth is grounded in the belief that process inevitably produces something of value and, therefore, production necessarily produces demand” (1970, p.38). This phenomenon is reflected in the amount of paper consumption and waste at the College.