Tips for Faculty & Staff

The University of Puget Sound faculty is a fount of information, ideas, and analytical perspectives; we are also the point of origin for an enormous paper stream.

There are many opportunities for faculty to reduce the ecological footprint of the university through changes both large and small to how we disseminate information, receive student work, and use paper.

For example, instead of giving students handouts for paper guidelines or changes in a course, these can be posted to the Web, on Blackboard or Moodle, or sent to students through emails. In some cases, however, such practices end up simply shifting the point of paper production from the department copy machine to other printers on campus, as students will often print out such assignments to have a hard copy.

When it is advisable to make handouts, faculty can do a number of simple things to reduce the amount of paper used.

  • Use the copy machine to double side handouts.
  • Use your word-processor to manipulate the length of the handout, so that it can fit efficiently on the least amount of sheets.
  • If the hand-out is relatively short, see if it can be formatted so that two (or more) can be fit on a page, and then cut the page to double (or triple) the efficiency of paper use.
  • Microsoft Word allows you to print out two pages side-by-side. By increasing the font size to 14-point, it’s possible to create legible hand-outs that make the most use of each sheet of paper. For example, consider a handout that would normally be three or three-and-a-half pages long. Even if you double-side a photocopy, you are using two sheets of paper for each handout. By increasing the font size to 14 point, your document would still be not more than four pages long. If you use the side-by-side print option, and then double-side the copies, your handout will be just one sheet.

    To use the side-by-side print option in Microsoft Word: select “print” from the menu. Once in the print option window, look or the “layout” option. Then select “2” under the “pages per sheet” option.

Paper assignments normally call for a specific number of written pages. These page guidelines usually are well-matched to the complexity and scope of the assignment (i.e., to adequately fulfill the requirements, papers really need to be the length specified). But by putting on page requirements, this sometimes results in some students manipulating their margins, fonts, and font sizes in order to appear to have fulfilled the requirement.

We can remind students that we evaluate their papers on the character of their content, not on the size or appearance of their characters (or fonts). We might also consider alternative ways of specifying the length of assignments other than number of pages. For example, we can ask for papers that are within a range of words.

There are many pedagogical reasons behind the traditionally expected format for papers (double-side, certain margins, etc). For particular assignments, evaluation styles, or interests of faculty, other formats could be specified that might result in a reduction of the amount of paper generated.

In making assignments, faculty may wish to consider:

  • asking students to use single space or space and a half instead of double-spacing.
  • encouraging students to double-side their papers, or print on reused paper.
  • discouraging the use of title pages (especially for non-term paper papers); encourage them to use headers instead.
  • specifying a word range rather than number of pages for an assignment. We can have students include in the header the number of words in the paper. Alternatively, students can be required to submit the paper electronically.
  • having students submit their papers electronically, as attachments. And consider using the editing functions of your word processor to make comments on and evaluate the papers.

One of the great virtues of a University of Puget Sound education is the amount of opportunities students have to engage in serious writing. By a conservative estimate, students write some 20 papers a year. If by implementing one or more of the suggestions above, students use one less sheet of paper per assignment, we would be using 50,000 fewer sheets per year. Such savings can really begin to add up.

These ideas are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg (and the real icebergs are melting). Please send us an e-mail with your comments or suggestions for how faculty can contribute to a sustainable campus and community. Or see the Sustainability in the Curriculum section to see how some faculty members are integrating sustainability into their courses.