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The Power of One

 

Little Things Get Big Results


What would happen if...?

It's a question we ask ourselves a lot.  But also a question we often reserve for Very Important Things.  What would happen if I bought a car?  What would happen if I changed jobs?  Big questions requiring a lot of thought. "What would happen if...?"

Okay, but what would happen if we put that much thought into the little stuff?  Things like the pens cluttering our desk drawer, or the unused bottles of shampoo in our tub?  Little stuff. Inconsequential stuff.  Stuff that gets disregarded.  Stuff that doesn't count... but should.

If one person makes an effort, it's good. If thousands make the same effort it can be incredible. Sometimes we forget that Texas Tech is a forty thousand strong community in the heart of Lubbock. It doesn't take long for little things to add up.  How much, and how fast?  Well, forty thousand of anything done once per day adds up to 14.6 million at the end of a single year.  Small things done by many people can make big, big differences.  The power of One.

Okay, so what would happen if...

You used one less napkin?
You sent your monthly newsletter electronically?
You read from the computer rather than printing?
You got half as much ice in your drink?
You used one less disposable plastic drink bottle?
You used one less gallon of water?

 

It's just a napkin!

It is common to see a pile of napkins going in the trash can, and way too easy to grab a double handful when you're blazing through the condiments island at the SUB. Why not get only as many as you need? What would that add up to?  Well, if every person at Texas Tech used one less napkin per day it would mean 14.6 million fewer napkins in the trash each year.

Yes, you read that right. No, it's not a misprint. Fourteen. Point. Six. Million.

To put it in perspective, that's 2,433 cases of napkins. How much is that? About 73,730 pounds.  37 tons of paper waste. Two semi-truck loads of trash.

(That's just one napkin per day. Imagine if we could average one less per meal.)

 

We only send one newsletter a month. How can that hurt?

Sending a single printed newsletter per month to the 7000+ Texas Tech employees requires 168 reams of paper per year. At 5 pounds per ream for everyday 20lb bond copy paper, that's 840 pounds. Stacked end to end the pages would stretch fifteen miles!  Expanded to include all offices sending campus-wide notices on a regular basis and the totals become almost too much to comprehend.

 

I don't like reading from the computer screen so I print it instead. What's wrong with that?

If each of the 7000+ employees on campus found a way to not use, or to re-use, a single page of paper, per person, per workweek day, the university would use 1.7 million fewer pages of paper per year. 1.7 million!! That's 3,430 reams, or 17,150 pounds, of wasted paper. Placed end to end the pages reach 297 miles; 11 times around Loop 289, or all the way from Lubbock to Fort Worth. If you placed a page per second it would take 476 hours, almost twenty 24-hour days, to finish the job.

Expand to include the 40,000 total Texas Tech population and make it one page every day, the paper trail now reaches a staggering 2537 miles, 100 miles further than the distance from New York to Los Angeles.  The paper-placing job?  Now it will take 4056 hours to complete.  Two years of forty-hour workweeks with no breaks, no vacation, and no sick leave.  Up your workday from 8 hours to 24 and the job will still require half a year to complete.

 

Sure, there's usually a little ice left in my drink.  What can that hurt?

The average American eats out 4.8 times per week (LivingSocial, Dining Out, Consumer Behavior Survey, 2011). That means Lubbockites eat more than 1.1 million times each year. If half those do not consume the ice from their water, tea, or soft drink, that's approximately twenty five thousand (yes, THOUSAND) gallons of water wasted annual on something as simple as unused ice in a drink. That would supply the water needs of an average Lubbock household for two months.

Now consider the tens of millions more concession and convenience store fountain drinks sold annually in Lubbock, all filled with ice that is often discarded once the drink is consumed. It is a lot of water wasted. Depending on whom you ask, estimates range from hundreds of thousands of gallons well into the millions.

The upside to using only as much ice as you need?  For your hard-earned money you get a drink with a little ice to keep it cool, not a lot of ice with a little drink it in.

 

I only buy one bottle of water or soda a week, and I make sure to put the bottle in the recycling container.

If each of the 40,000 combined students, faculty, and staff at Texas Tech used on less disposable plastic bottle per week, the result would be over two million fewer bottles each year. That's over 75,000 pounds of plastic diverted from the landfill. For perspective, 75,000 pounds is two fully loaded tractor trailers, 15 half-ton pickups, or 250 Texas Tech defensive linemen.

Up that to one less bottle per day and the number is staggering. That insignificant bottle each day, times 40,000, over a one year period? Fourteen point six million. Half a million pounds of plastic, 250 tons, saved by simply using a refillable bottle.

Putting your plastic bottle in the recycling bin is great, but not having to dispose of a bottle at all is even better!

 

Sure, I can save a gallon of water a day, easy.  But it's just a gallon.  What is that going to help?

If each and every person at Texas Tech used one less gallon of water a day, every day, at the end of a year we will have conserved 14.6 million gallons of water.  That would serve the needs of a typical four-person household for more than 100 years.

How easy is it to save a gallon?  Very.  Shut the water off while you brush your teeth rather than let it run.  Swap your old 3 gallon per flush toilet to a new low-volume unit.  Pay a few extra dollars for high-efficiency appliances rather than bargain-basement priced water hogs (you will save enough over time to pay the difference.  Promise.)  Or simply shorten your morning shower by a mere 20 seconds.