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.
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:
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.