Watt Watchers of Texas: Texas is Too Good To Waste™

Activity: Paper Capers

Grade Level:

Activity Overview: This activity focuses on the concept of a source reduction. Also known as waste prevention, source reduction decreases the amount of material entering the waste stream. Some examples of source reduction include buying longer lasting light bulbs to reduce the frequency of burnouts and therefore the number thrown away. Another example is refilling plastic water bottles. Even disposable bottles can be refilled from the tap, which reduces the number entering the waste stream, even for recycling.


  • Clean receptacle for paper
  • scale
  • method of recording data (analog or electronic)


  1. Ask the students how the class could find out the total amount of paper it throws away in a week. Most likely they will suggest having a separate container just for paper. Discuss what kinds of paper to keep. For the purpose of this activity, copy paper or notebook paper should be kept. Explain why some kinds of paper are not readily recyclable.
  2. Have each student write down his estimate of how much paper, by weight, is thrown away each week.
  3.  At the end of the five-day period, weigh the paper in the paper box. Have the students sort the waste paper into two categories:
    1. paper they could still use in the classroom (example, they could write on the blank side).
    2. paper that has no additional classroom use (example, already written on both sides). Weigh the amount of paper in each category.
  4. Use paper from category A for scratch paper and notes. Put the reused paper in a separate container for recycling. Weigh the container at the end of 5 days.
  5. Relate the classroom experience to the idea of a source reduction.

Discuss how the students can use less paper. Think of ways the whole school could cut down on paper use. Plan to share the results of this demonstration with the school.


Compare the results across the classrooms on your hall or in your department. Use tables, graphs, and other tools to analyze the results. Are there correlations with between class sizes, subject matter, or any other parameters?

Adapted from Away with Waste, Washington Department of Ecology.


SCI.K.1A, SCI.1.1A, SCI.2.1A, SCI.3.1A, SCI.4.1A, SCI.5.1A, SCI.K.1B, SCI.1.1B, SCI.2.1B, SCI.3.1B, SCI.4.1B, SCI.5.1B, SCI.K.2A, SCI.1.2A, SCI.2.2A, SCI.3.2A, SCI.4.2A, SCI.5.2A
SCI.K.2C, SCI.1.2C, SCI.2.2C, SCI.3.2B, SCI.4.2B, SCI.5.2C
SCI.K.2D, SCI.1.2D, SCI.2.2D, SCI.3.2C, SCI.4.2C, SCI.5.2G
SCI.K.2E, SCI.1.2E, SCI.2.2E,  SCI.3.2D, SCI.4.2D, SCI.5.2D

Watt Watchers of Texas is a Partner Program of Smart Energy Education.
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