Paper waste on campus reduced 40% in first month of limited printing plan
Members of the Student Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) are satisfied with the limits it has placed on free printing this year, despite continued student frustration with the change.
Committee members said the restriction was put in place to eliminate exorbitant and wasteful use of free printing previously offered in all residential life computer labs.
STS statistics show that printing in residential labs has been reduced by about 40 percent as a result.
“We found piles of printed pages left in the labs because students were using printing for personal reasons—invitations, announcements, student group needs,” said Barbara Braun, director of Student Technology Services. “There have been instances where students would print multiple copies of whole textbooks and just take a page and leave the rest behind in the labs.”
Last year, students printed a total of about 3,560,000 sheets, according to STS figures.
STAC introduced the quotas after monitoring students’ printing habits in residential colleges for 18 months.
Based on the data STS collected over the period, the committee chose to allocate each student living in Residential Life housing a printing budget of $40 per year, not including extra money provided by particular schools. In addition, the University gives all students a $5 printing allowance.
“The quota implementation has really been significant, I think,” Braun said. “We don’t now see wasted papers lying in the labs and overall printing has definitely reduced when compared to last year’s statistics.”
While STS members are confident that the quota rule has reduced extraneous waste, many students consider it an annoying, if not unfair, imposition.
“Instead of bringing printed copies of lecture slides, now I have to bring my laptop to some classes,” sophomore Lucy Huo said. “I appreciate what they are trying to do, but personally I am a little upset because I already pay so much to come here.”
But although numerous students voiced discontent with the fees, with many classes requiring them to print lecture slides or assignments for annotation, Braun said that careful planning should allow most students to stay within their allotted budget.
“I absolutely don’t feel that a quota will affect the students’ schoolwork,” Braun said. “Based on history, about 93 percent of students who print in residential spaces won’t even be impacted by it. Those students that may feel like they won’t have enough paper to print simply need to consider ways to save paper when they print.”
Braun suggested those students worried about limits to consider printing on both sides of the page, putting multiple slides of a PowerPoint presentation on one page and changing the orientation of a page from vertical to horizontal.
Beyond changing the way in which they print their materials, the quota is also leading students to prioritize what they print.
“I’m definitely now a lot more careful about how I print for class,” sophomore Aarthi Kasilingam said. “I tend to print a lot, but now I’m more careful about printing slides for classes and how I take notes over reading for business school. Basically this year I’ve had to think a lot more about printing and how to minimize how much I do print.”
Braun said that the change in printing proves the initiative a success.
“I think the fact that printing has reduced this year is significant,” Braun said. “It shows that students are aware of their resources and are beginning to understand how to be more sustainable.”