Unlimited printing isn’t sustainable

Unlimited printing isnt sustainable

Danielle Zukowski

Grand Valley State University is known as one of the most sustainable universities in the nation. Lakers appear on nearly every list for being environmentally friendly.

At many campus dining locations and academic buildings, there are bins for compost, recyclable plastics and paper. However, there are still many significant sources of waste that could be altered to continue making the university the greenest school it could be. One example is printing.

Through talks with friends from many different universities, it’s become apparent how fantastic the printing policies are here. Free and unlimited printing? Sounds great. We can print as much as we want at no cost. For students such as myself, it is extremely valuable academically to have a printed copy of notes, assignments and readings. GVSU gives us the unquestioned ability to print resources as we see fit. However, if it intends to be green, is this really the best policy?

On www.gvsu.edu/sustainability, the Office of Sustainability Practices lists the current efforts to minimize waste of paper. For instance, double-sided printing is automatically selected in most computer labs. In addition, if teachers use Blackboard to post class materials, they can reduce paper handouts. These are great steps, but student accountability and printing policies contribute to further enhancing these efforts.

It is amazing that as poor college students struggling to pay rent, we don’t have to worry about paying to print academic materials, but we should not take this for granted. Before printing off materials, consider the necessity. Do you need to photocopy 100 pages of a textbook? Could you just take notes off the online resource? I personally hate online books, but that’s the only option for my statistics section. I read the online text and take paper notes.

In order for Blackboard to be an effective source of waste minimization, students must also use the tool. If teachers are posting academic materials electronically, use them electronically. Many lecture-based science classes post PowerPoints online prior to class. PowerPoint has an option to add notes if you want the lecture and your notes to be attached. Notes can also be taken on Microsoft Word or Google Drive.

There’s also the less-green option of following the PowerPoint either on a projector or on a laptop, tablet or cell phone, then taking notes by hand. It is most likely that these notes will be fewer pages than the PowerPoint, therefore saving paper. Another option if you decide to print a PowerPoint is to select three slides per page instead of printing whole pages and keep the default duplex printing.

As for university policy, although I appreciate that printing is free and unlimited in order to be both green and economical, perhaps some regulations should be considered. If there is some kind of cap, it could be helpful to encourage student accountability, reduce paper waste and cost less for the university.

Sometimes it is necessary to print longer documents, but maybe students should be required to go to the help desk if print jobs go over a certain number. Increasing sustainability efforts in regard to printing should be a student and faculty discussion. Collaboration is necessary to be even greener.