Yale Going Paperless to Save Money, Time, and Trees
Editor's Note: This article is the first in an ongoing series about sustainable practices in ITS and across the University, and the technologies that support Yale's sustainability initiatives.
By Roger Ngim
Managing Editor, Monday Morning News
Last September, Office of the CIO Executive Director Russell Sharp made a case for reducing, if not outright eliminating, paper from our business lives. He urged us to “embrace the digital reality which we ourselves are responsible for leading at the University.”
Is a paperless campus a possibility, or will it forever remain a dream? Thanks to strategic planning, awareness campaigns, and projects to replace paper-based processes with electronic systems, Yale and ITS are moving closer toward Russell's vision.
In FY 2011, the University consumed 211,033 reams of paper, according to the Office of Sustainability – that’s enough paper, if laid end to end, to stretch three-quarters of the way around the earth. To look at it another way, some conservation organizations estimate that one ream of paper (500 sheets) uses the equivalent of 6 percent of a tree, which would mean Yale used approximately 12,662 trees worth of paper in 2011.
The good news is that in FY 2012, paper consumption decreased 2.4 percent to 203,236 reams. However, there is still plenty of work to be done to reach the overall goal of a 25 percent reduction.
Beyond the toll it takes on our natural resources, there are many other costs associated with a paper-based business culture: printing services, delivery, mailing, storage, processing, disposing, recycling. Copier and printer supplies alone amount to a huge expenditure. Last year, the University spent roughly $680,000 on copier paper and twice that amount on toner.
Clearly, using less paper is just as much about saving green as being green. Recognizing this, Yale departments and schools have taken a variety of steps to save trees and money, many involving digital solutions. For example:
- The Student Employment office realized annual savings of $100,000 by adopting an electronic process to replace paper timesheets.
- The School of Medicine saved $92,000 when the practice of printing paper course packets was replaced with iPads.
- Finance and Business Operations saved roughly $60,000 when it discontinued printing and mailing hardcopies of its annual report and instead published it online.
The introduction of electronic systems such as these is an effective means of reducing paperwork and streamlining systems, and there are many other projects in the works across campus to eliminate paper-based processes. But how can we encourage the individual staff member to think twice before hitting the print button?
In the spectrum of sustainability initiatives Yale is undertaking, paper consumption presents a particular challenge because it asks individuals to change the way they have been doing their jobs for years, if not decades. Printing emails, distributing handouts at meetings, filing paper records – these are tough habits to break.
The first step is to learn how and why we use so much paper. Toward this goal, ITS recently announced the phased rollout of a print management tool, Papercut, that gathers data and generates reports about printing habits. The program will be installed automatically on ITS-managed computers and made available to Yale IT professionals to install on computers that are not.
The tool does not record what is being printed; it instead looks at volume and print settings (whether a user selects double-sided printing, for example). The plan is for lead administrators to use the information to create less paper-intensive processes, move toward electronic solutions, and start conversations with staff about sustainable practices.
Thus far, Papercut has been deployed to 1,421 campus computers. The reports show that users of those machines have printed 249,475 pages since April 20, 2013. That is approximately 276 pages per user. Of those pages, 158,961 were in black and white, while 90,514 were in color.
The person who printed the most sent 10,587 pages to the printer. During the same period, 225 people printed five or fewer pages.
What you can do
Papercut will be implemented across the University throughout the summer. But you don't have to wait to reduce your paper consumption. Here are some simple changes you can make to help Yale and ITS acheive our goals:
When creating a document:
- Reduce margins and font size, or adjust document layout to reduce the number of pages.
- Skip the coversheet.
- Circulate documents for editing or approvals electronically. Use the track-changes feature in Microsoft Word.
When printing a document:
- Print on both sides of each sheet of paper (duplex printing).
- Print two or more pages per side of a sheet.
- Print to order: Ask if recipients prefer to receive electronic copies of documents before printing.
- Always pick up what you print. This will help you keep track of how much paper you use.
- Bring your computer to a meeting instead of printing documents.
- Share information by projecting it.
- Distribute meeting handouts and slide decks electronically.
- Use a message program such as Microsoft Lync or email to exchange information.
Around the office:
- Reuse sheets of paper printed on only one side.
- Route a single copy of a document instead of printing multiple copies.
- Use bins to recycle paper.