15 February 2008

Corporate Waste

Subtitle: Things I've Thrown Away This Week (Not Including My Heart)

On Tuesday, I spent the entire day making thirteen copies of a 60-page binder. 780 pages, plus all the binder tab pages (65). And the cover pages, 13. So... 858 pages.

This comprised about two, two and a half hours' work, and tons of paper cuts. The company paid approximately sixty dollars to have me do this.

At the end of the project, it turned out that the binders the project manager bought for the reports didn't match up to the hole-puncher we'd used, so the 65 page report didn't fit into the 13 brand new binders. The project manager looked at me, and I could see the thought "Redo" flashing in his eyes. Instead, I talked him into going into the supply closet for different binders. We found six binder that worked, and he ran off to order more of the same binder from the office supply company, to be delivered the next morning. The company paid about $25 for me and probably about $50 for him to take this hour plus just worrying about binders.

Then I boxed up four of the binders we had and fed-exed them off to the east coast, two-day delivery. It was a large box: let's say, what, $15, $20 to ship it?

The next morning, as I waited for the office supply delivery dude to bring me the new binders so I could finish up the remaining binders, a morbidly cheerful email appeared in my outlook inbox. Turns out that the big boss had made a "few changes" to the reports. Guess what: all 858 pages had to be reprinted. And the few changes included some extra stuff, so this time it was closer to 900 pages. So: the 858 pages from the day before? Landfill. Another two hours on the company's clock for me to print new copies of 900 pages, punch them, and put them into the OLD binders. Another $50 that the company paid to re-do a project. Neat. Once those were finished, I got to box them up and fed-ex them across the country. A new box went to the east coast, to replace the four we'd sent the day before, this time overnight. Total fed-ex cost probably around $50.

All this for a 65 page report of which the board will probably read about four pages, and maybe, maybe skim four or five others. And did I mention that everyone gets a PDF file of the entire document as well? So clearly, they really need a hard copy sitting in front of them. Not to mention the fact that as soon as the meeting's over, the report will become obsolete and worthless, and the entire thing, probably including the binder, will go right into the landfill. So ultimately, another 900 pages in the earth.

That was Wednesday.

Thursday, I only had to make three reports. I spent all morning looking up the correct files, printing them, collating them, punching holes (with yet another kind of hole puncher) in them, etc etc. Each report ended up being about 100 pages, plus the tabs, so about 324 pages total. Half-way through the day, the vice president directing this project changed his mind about half the files, and of course they all needed to be reprinted and repunched. The old files, of course, were tossed. Fifty pages in the garbage. Later that afternoon, as the frantic executive assistant and I were trying to finish the books to the exec's specifications, the exec walked over and demanded more changes. "This should make your life easier," he said. Turns out, half the book is unnecessary. 150 pages: garbage. Then it turns out that one of the three books is for him, and he actually doesn't need it, so actually you can just throw that away if you don't have time to do it... another fifty pages. Oh, and this file has been updated, so it has to be reprinted and re-inserted into each of the three -- no, two! -- books. Forty pages more, garbage.

All total, more than three hundred pieces of paper in the trash, all for, again, a report that someone in the suburbs may or may not actually read. And ultimately? Land fill.

Of course we fed-exed them over there... and did I mention that I spent most of my day working on this single project? As did the EA. Between the two of us, the company probably paid between $250 and $300 in labor to produce these two stupid books.

Today I get to stuff 200+ envelopes with promotional marketing stuff, six pages in each envelope, all of which will likely get thrown away before anyone even looks at it. More than a thousand pieces of paper... hours of labor stuffing envelopes and printing out stupid "personalized" cards... which might yield, what, one account?

Total for week (so far): 3,300 sheets of paper in the garbage.

And I'm just one drone in this office, and it's just one office on this floor, which is just one floor in the building, just one building in this city, which is just one city in this country, which is just one country in the world. If I, in five days, personally oversaw the dumping of 3,300 sheets of paper....

It hurts my heart to think about it. I keep picturing a tiny koala bear, snuggling into the crook of a tree, with a single tear sliding down his adorably sleepy face.

And then of course there's the small matter of the poor, rural school that was my home from 2003-2007, where the photocopy and/or risograph machines were broken more often than they were working, where I often had to spend my own money to buy extra paper and pencils for the students, where I had to write worksheets by hand onto overhead projecter sheets and have kids copy them into their notebooks because the xerox was broken or the school was out of paper or we couldn't afford to buy a new thing of toner, or or or..... In 2005, when we did Nanowrimo, the principal bought every one of my students a brand new notebook, and it was the biggest deal. They felt SO special. For some of them, it was the first new notebook they'd had in YEARS. Our district was so poor that the school board decided to save money by keeping the hallway lights turned off during the day. We didn't have many windows, and the dark hallways made the school feel so cold and unhappy.

Man, does our culture have its priorities screwed up.

Coming from there -- a rural school so poor we couldn't afford to turn the hallway lights on when the kids were there -- to here, where hundreds of dollars are wasted, daily, for impossibly stupid reasons -- it's hard not to feel anger at the unfairness of this world. It's a global society, and yet this marble corporate office feels like a whole different planet from the dark desert middle school I came from.

And yet, those kids, the ones so poor they never had their own notebooks until the principal bought one for them, they're the ones who will be suffering when the planet finally decides it's had too many binders and too many status reports dumped beneath its crust.

It kills me.

1 comment:

Nora Rocket said...

I won't even tell you what I did last friday: took a box cutter to the front and back covers of upwards of 300 copies of *in print* education textbooks and professional development handbooks. And threw them out. Because the warehouse didn't want to deal with taking them back into stock.