Penn State Berks reduces paper usage as part of sustainability efforts

As part of Penn State Berks’ ongoing sustainability efforts, student, faculty and staff joined forces to reduce paper usage during the 2015-16 academic year. The student body participated in the University’s Print Allocation Program with goals of reducing paper waste and its negative impact on the environment.

According to Lisa Glass, director of information technology at Penn State Berks, who coordinated the project, the goal for the first year of the program was to reduce the use of paper. “During the year, students used 44 percent less paper compared to the 2014-15 academic year. The faculty and staff used 10 percent less paper this past academic year.” 

In December 2014, Glass, who leads the campus' Paper Reduction Committee, completed a print and copy report for the campus for the 2013-14 academic year. She was shocked to learn that the campus produced 5.5 million pages on its copiers and printers.

“We had a multi-year history of a steady increase in print usage on campus. The December 2014 report was the first year that the print and copy page counts were combined. The 5.5 million pages included 2.5 million student pages printed, 1 million faculty and staff pages printed, and 2 million copies produced. When I shared this information with the rest of the campus, it became clear that we needed to reduce our usage of paper. So the Paper Reduction Committee was formed and a plan was developed to reduce our paper use,” explained Glass.

Starting last fall, each student received an allocation of 250 pages per semester for printing. During the 2015-16 year, 75 percent of Berks students used fewer than 250 pages each semester.

Students were given several helpful tips to help stretch their paper usage:

  • Print double-sided; it will only count as one page.
  • Print to a black-and-white printer as often as possible; printing one page to a color printer will count as three pages.
  • Use the “multiple pages per sheet” setting available on most software print menus.
  • Store and share documents using 

The Paper Reduction Committee also ran promotional campaigns on ways to reduce printing, including the tips above, as well as advice to proofread a document before printing.

In addition, other campus-wide campaigns focused on students, faculty and staff. Students in Environmental Science courses created a “THINK” display from paper boxes and orphaned paper (print-outs left at printers and never claimed). This was on display in the campus’ Thun Library during the spring semester. Faculty and staff also participated in surveys about paper usage and recycling of paper and paper-related items such as newspapers, junk mail, boxes, and product packaging.

All these efforts led to a 44 percent decrease in student printing and a 10 percent decrease in faculty and staff printing and copying for the 2015-16 academic year.

“For the upcoming academic year, we would like to see an additional 20 percent reduction of paper use,” added Glass. “We would also like to increase the recycling of paper-based products such as newspapers, junk mail, and boxes, both on and off campus.”