About post-its and trees

“Post-its?! What a waste of our precious trees!”

“Post-its?! Oh No! What a waste of our precious trees!”, someone shouted just before the workshop started. And this is not an isolated case. As an agile coach, one has the privilege to work in different companies. More than once, one encounters a so-called “paperless office” (except for the toilets, that is), or one meets individuals who champion a paperless way-of-living and want to spread their belief. Because even agile coaches should care about the environment, I started to do some research.  I looked for information to substantiate the environmental impact of using post-its with scientific data. 

So how many post-its can be produced from a single tree?

Well, lets first determine the mass of paper used in a post-it: a square post-it measures 76mm x 76mm and is made from paper with a mass of 70gr/m2. So one post-it has a mass of 0,0004 kg

Next, we determine how much paper can be produced from one tree. 8 trees (each 13,5m tall and a diameter of 20cm) produce about 450 to 900 kg of paper. So about 56 to 112kg of virgin paper can be produced from 1 tree.

Consequently, by doing the math we conclude that with the paper from one tree one can produce about 140000 to 280000 post-its. Moreover, these numbers assume post-its are made from 100% virgin paper and do not take into account that there are post-its available with 30% recycled content or more

Now let's make this a bit more tangible. In the remainder of this post, we'll use the conservative number (140000 post-its per tree) for our calculations: 

  • 140000 post-its corresponds to 1400 pads of 100 post-its each. Stacked on top of each other this is a tower of 14 meters tall. Suppose you start peeling off post-its from this stack of 140000 and you do this at a rate of 1 post-it per second. Well, It would take you about a full 40 hour work week of time to complete the task. 
  • So where could we hang the post-its we've just peeled off? Imagine a gigantic meeting room. One large enough to fit a full-size soccer field (55 by 105 meters). Suppose our soccer-field-sized meeting room is surrounded by walls made from glass that are 2,5 meters heigh. Well, the 140000 post-its suffice to COMPLETELY cover all 4 glass walls top to bottom, blocking all sunlight. 
  • As an alternative, suppose we put all these post-its next to each other in a single row, one post-it touching the other: the line of post-its would be more than 10,5 kilometres long. That's enough post-it's to cover an average person's commuting trajectory. 
  • In the context of Agile, the post-its produced from a single tree can "power" a sizeable IT-organisation with 10 SCRUM-teams working in 2-week sprints consuming on average 100 post-its per team per sprint for more than five and a half years.
  • To put that into perspective, one tree does NOT provide enough toilet paper for even a single person over the same 5,5 year period. A single roll of toilet paper equals 300 post-its. Whoops!

Conclusion

Wanna save some trees? Time to switch strategy, as the data above shows it is better to bash your coach while (s)he visits the rest room, than during the workshop (s)he facilitates.