You can find paper in so many things: books, magazines, birthday cards, gift wrap. Even cereal and pasta boxes are made of paper, except it’s thicker. So our friend Ruby W. asked, how much paper do we use, anyway? The Time for Kids site says that America alone uses 69 million tons of paper and paperboard every year. Just to imagine how huge that is: a ton is 2,000 pounds, about half the weight of a car. Most books weigh a lot less than a pound, and magazines use even less paper. So even 1 ton is a huge stack of paper. The good news is, we can recycle paper. A machine chews it up and mixes it with liquids, smushes it, then rolls it back out as new paper. Every recycled ton of paper saves between 15 and 17 trees, and the energy saved could heat your home for 6 months. So as much as we love paper, let’s try to recycle and save some trees.

*Wee ones:* Look around the room. How many things do you see that use paper? Count as many as you can!

*Little kids:* Recycling a 3-foot stack of newspaper saves 1 tree! Is that stack shorter or taller than you? *Bonus:* If starting in October you heat your house for 6 months with the saved energy from 1 ton of paper, until what month does the heat last?

*Big kids:* If you recycle 10 pounds of paper each month, how much do you save in 1 year? Count up by 10s! *Bonus:* If your family recycles 60 pounds total of paper and cardboard, and twice as much of it is cardboard as paper, how much of each do you recycle?

*The sky’s the limit:* Do these webpages’ numbers make sense? If every ton of paper uses 16 trees, how many trees does 70 million tons use? (You can round to 70, and hint if needed: 16 is 2 x 2 x 2 x 2.)

Answers:

*Wee ones:* Different for everyone…see if you can count them all!

*Little kids:* Again, different for everyone…find out your own height in feet. *Bonus:* Until the same day of the month in April.

*Big kids:* 120 pounds, which is almost 1/16 of a ton…so you’ve saved a tree! *Bonus:* 40 pounds of cardboard and 20 pounds of paper. The cardboard is like 2 more sets of paper, so you have 3 sets of paper that add up to 60.

*The sky’s the limit:* 1,120,000,000 trees (1 billion 120 million). We double to 140 million, 280 million, 560 million, and finally 1,120 million. Scientists say Earth has more than 3 trillion trees, or about 3,000 times this number…so it all could be possible.

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.