Four weeks ago, I committed to a Personal Sustainability Promise of using less paper, and printing only when necessary. It has been an interesting challenge, and I have discovered that I was doing a lot of unnecessary printing. Because I have to physically click “print,” or go to the library to do so, I found it easy to remain aware of my PSP and to choose not to print at times.
Social, Economical & Environmental Impacts
I have been thinking about over the past weeks about some of the benefits of saving paper that seem selfish. For example, one of Vision of Earth’s 31 Ways to Reduce Paper Usage is to decrease junk mail by locating the contact information and asking to be taken off their mailing list. This is something that I’ve been doing for a few years now, but originally to save the frustration and clutter of having too much mail, or receiving junk mail from previous residences.
Not printing also saves you money. Had I printed every page of paper in my documents folder at the OSU Valley Library, I would have spent $18.83. When you refrain from printing at home, your paper and ink supplies will last longer, as will your printer due to less frequent use.
According to The World Counts, 42% of all global wood harvest is used to make paper, and 93% of paper comes from trees. Deforestation is the largest environmental problems of paper use, although water use is also an issue in paper production. On some accounts “10 liters of water is needed to make one piece of A4 paper” (“Paper Comes from Trees…”).
Over the past four weeks I have been tracking my paper consumption and printing prevention. I have saved 171 pages of paper, and printed 26 pages. Financially, using the OSU library’s printing prices, I saved $17.66 in just four weeks. I only printed 13% of the paper I normally would have!
According to a study done by the University of Colorado Boulder, “solvent based inks and toners contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are very harmful for the environment and can cause major health effects to people who are chronically exposed to them. Printers and copiers are a substantial contributor to VOC emissions due to the drying processes that release these compounds in the air.” Those most affected by this pollution are workers in manufacturing facilities, many of which are located in Southeast Asia. If others and I continue to decrease printing, the demand of ink and toner will decrease, and these factories will close and the workers will be saved from health risks. (Nelson, et al.)
The video below from the European Environmental Paper Network explains many of the effects of paper use:
Power in Numbers
For this class alone I saved 117 sheets of paper ($8.19). There are 57 students in our class (according to Canvas). If we all refrained from printing for this course (as I’m sure many of us may have), we could have saved a total of 6,669 pieces of paper. That’s a lot of paper! Can you imagine if other classes joined us in utilizing our online resources such as Canvas and Google Drive?
A Family (and Friends) Effort
Now that I think about it, I have been involving my friends in printing less for the past year. Though originally to save money and ink, I have sent my friends class and study group notes via scanning and email, rather than making them each copies. Some of them print it themselves, but some of them may not. After discovering the impact printing has on the environment, I will encourage them to use the notes electronically.
When spending time with my family, I’ve never hesitated to print free coloring pages via the internet. However, kids can color without black ink lines! Giving a child a blank (or better yet, recycled) sheet of paper can allow them to express themselves creatively, which saves ink and results in more personal and meaningful drawings.
Other Means of Sustainability
I have found paper conservation to be a great fit to my lifestyle. My PSP and the lectures from this class have made me significantly more aware of my choices and their environmental impacts. Some things I have already been doing are turning lights and faucets off when not needed, and carrying a refillable water bottle, as one of my classmates has been blogging about.
Something I have added to my lifestyle during the past four weeks is recycling. I used to only recycle my class notes at the end of terms, but have began recycling items from my home as well, such as cardboard Amazon boxes, and even boxes our food comes in.
As I mentioned last week and the week before, I have found a few electronic alternatives to paper use for notes, printing, and reminders. Using less paper does not take much effort at all. Here are some other recommended ways and resources to save paper and recycle:
- OSU Campus Recycling – discover recycling locations on campus.
- Detailed Recycling Guide – for students off campus, by Corvallis’ recycling service, Republic Services.
- 31 Ways to Reduce Paper
From Here On Out
I have enjoyed tracking my printing decisions, and it is now a part of my lifestyle and school routine. A few days ago I received an email from the instructor of a class I’m starting next week, requiring us to print and bring multiple packets of information. I also discovered in Canvas that all of our assignments will be paper submissions, rather than electronic submissions. Knowing I am required to print so much made me feel guilty, especially after focusing on the PSP for four weeks. I did take the opportunity to use the library printers and print double sided, but still felt bad for printing something I felt was not necessary, but was required.
I learned a lot from this Personal Sustainability Promise. Conserving paper is easy, affordable, and effective. In just four weeks I saved 171 sheets of paper, printing only 13% of what I would have if this PSP was not in effect. My plan is to continue printing less, and I will encourage others to do so as well.
Campus Recycling. Oregon State University, 2015. Web. 16 July 2015.
“Coloring Pages.” Crayola.com. Crayola, 2015. Web. 17 July 2015.
Harack, Ben. “31 Ways to Reduce Paper Usage.” Vision of Earth. N.p., 29 Nov. 2010. Web. 16 July 2015.
Land, R., and Yeng Yeng Toh. “Save Paper.” R.Land Baidin Egwar, ST. N.p., 10 June 2011. Web. 16 July 2015.
Martin, Joshua. “Video: The Future of Paper.” Environmental Paper Network. N.p., 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 July 2015.
Nelson, Jonathan, Lindsey Carney, James Wille-Irmiter, Kaylyn Bopp, Sarah Ballew, and Lisa K. Barlow, Ph.D. “Chapter 3: Life-Cycle Impact of Toner and Ink for CU-Boulder.” Printers, Printing and Print Behavior: Status, Socio-Environmental Implications, and Recommendations for the University of Colorado at Boulder. N.p.: Sustainable Solutions Consulting, Spring 2011. 25-51. Print. 14 July 2015.
“OSU Libraries.” Printers. Oregon State University, 2015. Web. 03 July 2015.
“Paper Comes from Trees…” The World Counts. N.p., 13 May 2014. Web. 16 July 2015.
Republic Services. Detailed Recycling Guide. N.p.: Republic Services, n.d. Print. 15 July 2015.
University of Colorado Boulder. Regents of the University of Colorado, n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.