How to Reduce Printer Waste at Your School

How much paper do you use in a single year? A single piece of paper doesn’t seem like much - but it can quickly add up. In fact, the average person in the United States uses over 700 pounds of paper products in a single year! That means the average American will go through nearly 2 pounds of paper a day. SCH Academy students and faculty tackled the school’s printer waste in their “Think Before You Print Campaign.”  

In the Spring of 2016, Jonathan Starobin of SCH’s Innovation and Technology Team witnessed a lot of paper wasted near the school’s 50 printers. He pitched his idea to reduce paper to the other members of SCH’s Green Task Force. The Green Task Force elevated the idea to SCH’s administration who gave it their full support.

From the start, Think Before You Print had a clear goal: to reduce paper and printer use by 20% in a year. How? “By getting people to think before they print,” reflected Jonathan, “Some changes were simple: always print documents double sided. Others were more complex.” Jonathan and the tech team provided hands on training at faculty meetings on how to “green” their computer defaults and how to receive and grade assignments digitally.

An infographic made by SCH’s seventh grade math    students to inform others about paper waste.

An infographic made by SCH’s seventh grade math    students to inform others about paper waste.

Middle School Math Teacher, Ashley Vandegrift, had her seventh grade students review the paper use data and share their findings with the school. According to Ashley, once students started looking at paper and ink usage, “They were certainly shocked to learn about the environmental effects of the paper-making process and immediately began considering alternatives for the wasted money in our school and beyond.” They then made it their goal to spread this information throughout SCH through infographics.

While instilling better habits and educating faculty and students made a difference, those changes alone could not reach the program’s goal alone. At this point, Jonathan installed an ID card system called SafeQ, which was a game changer for the school’s printer reduction. Although students and staff could still print as much as they wanted for free, they now needed to swipe their ID at a printer to get the document. This vastly reduced the amount of unnecessary and accidental printing. The spirit of sustainability that Think Before You Print brought to campus made this an easy change for the campus to adopt.

By Earth Day 2017, SCH had far exceeded its 20% paper reduction. The year before Think Before You Print, SCH had used 220,000 sheets of paper. The next year, the campus reduced that number by 31%, 68,000 sheets fewer than a year ago -- 136 reams of paper.

How can you reduce paper use at your home, school or office? Here are Jonathan’s tips:

  • Think before you print - is this worth printing?

  • “Green” your printer default settings: print double sided, use more ink efficient fonts (like Century Gothic) and shrink your paper margins.

  • Buy paper made with recycled content.

  • Make it a team effort. If everyone works together, then collectively you can make a much greater difference.

These may seem like small changes, but they make a difference. By adopting better printing habits and by teaching others, you can make a difference too.

Article submitted by Samuel York, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, currently working as an intern with Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants.

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