The average college student produces 640 pounds of solid waste each year, according to UC Berkeley, and half of it is paper. I’m curious: How much of that paper waste originated as the fliers passed out on Ring Mall every day?
Considering all of the recent emphasis on ‘being green,’ the near-daily scene of campus organizations handing out unsolicited fliers to students seems ironic. Every flier printed, passed out and discarded contributes to deforestation.
Not only is the so-called practice of ‘fliering’ far from environmentally sound, but it’s also just plain annoying in the many forms it takes. I had just bought a doughnut from Zot-and-Go when I decided to sit down and study a bit before my next class. I witnessed a girl literally blocking people’s paths on the bridge between Humanities and the Student Center to give them fliers.
These tactics create bothersome and uncomfortable situations for more than just the receiver. Oftentimes, even the students passing out the papers wonder about the value of the practice.
‘I have to hand [fliers] out sometimes, and I hate doing it because I hate being hated,’ an anonymous bookstore employee said. That is an awful lot of hate for one small piece of paper, and yet it continues.
During the first week of school, I regularly walked from Starbucks to Langson Library, a common path taken by many students. Each day I took this trip, I invented a new method of avoiding the awkward situation caused by rejecting a flier.
Day 1: As I approach the narrow pathway created by booths and Greek letters, I notice several students standing on either side of the path, stacks of fliers in hand. I resolve not to make eye contact with them. Suddenly, an arm extends outward, and I politely accept the flier inviting me to some frat party I never planned to attend in the first place.
Day 2: New strategy in effect: as I pass the booths, I take out my cell phone and begin a conversation. No one is on the other end of the line, but this illusion makes me less of a target. I navigate my way successfully to Langson, flier-less.
Day 3: To avoid the pathetic feeling of being friendless, I ditch the cell phone technique. This time, I treat the inevitable fliers ahead like a minefield. Quickly, I duck behind the nearest booth and proceed to make my way up the wheelchair access ramp toward Gateway Commons. I find myself safely across enemy lines and sans fliers.
This three-day experiment forced me to stoop to utilizing handicapped access, which might have inconvenienced someone who really needed it, not to mention made me feel like a loser talking on a phone to no one. You might say that this could have been easily avoided by just taking the fliers, but that would have been feeding the problem.
The point I find most important is that the one flier I did receive meant nothing to me and was deposited in the nearest trashcan without a second thought. I had no intention of attending any parties to which I received an invitation at random and had no connection to whatsoever. How many people actually hear about something from a flier and then attend? I can’t be sure, but I am willing to venture very few.
Organizations can reach students in much more effective ways. For example, the same flier a designer spent hours making could be enlarged and hung around campus at strategic locations. Granted, many clubs already do this, and it seems effective enough to me. People are receiving the same information in a less hostile manner. They can return to it instead of the flier that usually gets discarded shortly after it’s received, and it can be used more than once as people walk past several times.
If you still want to give fliers, brochures, pamphlets, a reminder or additional information to interested students, then keep it at your booth for prospective students to take. Most likely, anyone who actually attends the event or wants to know more about your organization has no problem approaching your booth for the information.
Utilize Facebook and the many other online networking forums to reach members. Save paper, money and time. Sending a mass message or invitation online requires less than half the manpower of passing out leaflets for a week. This forum also creates a more comfortable environment for those not interested; they don’t have to reject you to your face.
Many may feel differently, but from my experience as one annoyed student, all I want to do is walk through Ring Mall with my friends and carry on a conversation without being approached by a stranger offering me something.
After all, my mother always told me, ‘don’t talk to strangers,’ and airport security always reminds me never to accept anything from them either.
Erica Bourdon is a second-year literary journalism major.