Greener Behrend: Indicator 1, Decrease Waste Amount

Greener Behrend: Indicator 1, Decrease Waste Amount

Indicator 1: Decrease amount of waste produced by 5% over the next four years

As with any educational institution, Penn State Behrend uses substantial amounts of paper. Syllabi are printed on paper, homework is done on paper, paper is used for taking notes in class, books used for classes are made of paper, fliers around campus are on paper, etc. It is hard to imagine a college without paper, but there are measures that can be taken to decrease the use of paper. Syllabi and assignments can be handled over the internet, old poster/flier paper can be reused by printing new information on the back, printers can be updated to allow double-sided printing, paper can also be saved by such a simple thing as reducing margin sizes. Reverse printers can be bought that can remove the printing from paper, enabling them to be used again. A reduction of unnecessary printing would also help cut down on paper consumption.

Behrend’s usage of paper falls into three basic categories: office paper, newspaper, and cardboard.

Office paper usage:
It is difficult to measure exact paper usage because there is no central paper purchasing system at the college. Accurate estimates of total paper use can be made (Table 1). It is estimated that Behrend uses about 8.6 million sheets of office paper per year, or around 2,100 sheets per person. This is significantly less paper per capita than is used at the University Park campus (8,700 sheets/person), but is still a great deal of paper. It is also difficult to determine exactly how much recycled paper we buy and use. Even obtaining accurate estimates is nearly impossible, but we do have some figures. The copy center buys about 445,000 sheets of recycled paper in a year, about 25 percent of their total paper use. It seems as if recycled paper can be bought for roughly the same cost as paper that has not been recycled, but there have been some concerns with the paper jamming in machines, creating wasted paper and wasted time. Further review and study is underway.

Another opportunity for Behrend to become more environmentally sensitive is to explore alternatives to wood paper. Any plant with a woody-type stalk can be used to make paper. Some alternatives to wood paper include; kenaf (a fiber plant related to cotton and okra), hemp, and agri-pulp (made from the remains of wheat, oat, barley and other crop stalks). This method is especially desirable since many crop stalks are usually burned (releasing carbon into the air) and there is a local supply of crop stalks.

Printing in student computer labs costs the students nothing, and students are requesting that additional printers be installed at locations where public PCs are available, especially at kiosks. The labs on campus used roughly 1.5 million sheets of paper in 2001, at a cost of about $6,800. All of the labs had equipment that printed on one side of each page only. To retrofit the eight printers in public labs would cost about $3,000, and would save an estimated 500,000 sheets of paper a year, for a cost savings of $2,250 in the first year. This has already been done, but could be expanded to printers that faculty/staff use. Implementing a cost for printing may entice students to print more sensibly. At some campuses, the first 100 sheets are free; after that there is a small charge per sheet. Promoting the use of paper already printed on one side (by having a special bin for collection) can help cut down on paper waste.

Table 1: Use of Office Paper

Total sheets 8,681,000
Total reams 17,362
Total pallets 43
Sheets/person 2,117
Total weight (lbs.) 104,172
Total weight (tons) 52
Cords of wood 104
Total trees 833
Forest area needed (sq ft) 83,338
Forest area needed (acres) 2
Note: assumes 8.5x11 paper; 6lbs./ream


Newsprint usage:
Behrend’s newspaper readership program is a great initiative to help students be aware of the world around them, but it also increases the use of paper by the campus population. Behrend circulates roughly 150,000 newspapers (Table 2) each academic year. The paper with the highest readership is the Behrend Beacon. If we assume that each newspaper weighs roughly the same as the Beacon (certainly false-that paper is the lightest of the three), we use roughly 17 tons of newsprint each year.

It is unclear how many copies of the Beacon are left in the racks unread each week, but our operations staff is attempting to estimate that number. Our newspaper readership program adjusts the number of papers that are supplied to the college (all papers other than the Beacon) for the number that are taken each day. Consequently, the number of USA Today, Erie Times-News, and New York Times papers that are left unread is nominal. To further reduce the number of papers circulated without affecting the program could be to have locations where students can deposit the papers after they have read them, so other students can read them.

Table 2: Use of Newsprint
Academic Year 2000/2001

Newspaper Copies Total Per Week Per Day Pounds Total Tons Total
Beacon 70,000 2,333 -- 16,100 8.1
Times-News 33,390 1,113 223 7,680 3.8
NY Times 12,360 412 82 2,843 1.4
USA Today 32,520 1,084 217 7,480 3.7
Total 148,270 2,609 522 34,102 17.1