P.O. Box mass fliers obnoxious and wasteful

I, like many Oles, dearly love my P.O. box. I love the little antiquated door knobs. I love contriving as many ways as possible to walk by and check for flowers on Friday afternoons. But most of all I love the little rush of endorphins and validation when I see a flash of color peeking out of those little P.O. box windows. What could it be? A postcard? A package slip? An anonymous bag of candy from an ardent admirer?

Usually, it’s a mass-produced flyer.

According to the St. Olaf Post Office’s website, only St. Olaf-sponsored items may be mass stuffed. They cannot be smaller than a ¼ sheet of paper. However I would add an additional stipulation: just don’t do it.

The most I have ever done after receiving a stuffed flyer was to think to myself, “Oh, that’s kind of interesting, I should look online for the details.” Then I either march the flyer across the hallway to the recycling bin, or more likely shove into my pocket or the depths of my backpack only to be discovered months later as an illegible wad of paper. It disappoints me then, too. That strange lump in my pocket could have been money. Instead, it’s a pamphlet about a blood drive that happened six months ago and that I attended after looking at the Facebook event like a normal millennial. 

There are a little over 3,000 students, and going to the trouble to print them each a flyer is a waste of resources, time and most importantly paper. According to sierraclub.com, a typical tree produces only 10,000 to 20,000 sheets of paper, meaning that we are using as much as 30 percent of a tree with every P.O. box announcement. 

A simple email, which you can’t lose and you can access anywhere, would be more than sufficient for getting the word out.

My complaint extends to this campus’ overloaded bulletin boards too. I was recently asked to hang up a stack of posters on the bulletin boards across campus, and as I searched for a bit of empty corkboard amid the flurries of advertisements, it occurred to me that I had almost never stopped to study these posters, many of which clearly had enormous effort poured into their design and production. 

Is it really the best of use of time and resources of the students and organizations involved to labor over largely ignored hard copies of information? Not to mention the printers themselves. They should be busy printing real relevant and timely pieces of print media, like student newspapers. Nobody has ever considered those to be obsolete.

Obviously, there are more pressing things to reform in our campus culture than P.O. box flyers. However, when a habit is expensive, wasteful and unproductive, it is worth reconsidering. And for the sake of both the environment and our changing cultural norms, I would strongly recommend against printing thousands of sheets of paper that will almost immediately, universally, be trashed. Then I can go back to skulking around the mailboxes in search of that elusive Friday flower in peace.