It’s Easy Being Green

Posted on April 26th, 2011 by

by Nicole Meyer ’11

Kermit says, “It isn’t easy being green.”

Gustavus begs to differ.

It’s as easy as printing less paper.

In fall semester of 2009, Gustavus launched a new printing program to conserve paper. To date, the outcome of the initiative has been tremendously positive.

James Dontje, Director of the Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation, describes the time when he first arrived at Gustavus in 2007. “There was still unlimited printing that didn’t cost anything, [so] students had no feelings of the consequences,” said Dontje. “People printed all kinds of things.”

Jim Dontje, Director of the Johnson Center for Environmental Innovation

During the spring semester of 2008, Dontje taught an intro to environmental studies course. As part of the class, students worked on sustainability projects. In the class, a few students looked at paper waste at Gustavus by performing surveys in computer labs. Dontje said that looking at the results, students came up with phenomenal numbers.  The numbers and behaviors showed there was a definite need for change. Ironically, the day that the results were discussed in class, Dontje received an e-mail saying that Gustavus had put in the hardware for a paper/printer release system.

So the change was needed and it began.

A release system was set up and put in place, where campus community members were required to log in when using campus computer lab printers. So instead of documents being sent immediately to a printer, the files were printed after a student logged in. This eliminated various reasons for paper waste, such as students changing their minds about printing the document, forgetting about it, etc. With the release program, the amount of paper usage in the 2008-2009 academic year was reduced from 2.8 million to 2.5 million sheets of paper.

The following year, in fall of 2009, the allowance program was put into action. With this program, students were allotted 600 free sheets of paper per academic year. The application of this system resulted in a savings even more significant than with the release program, resulting in a reduction of 1.5 million sheets of paper, an overall reduction of 3/8.

But what does this number of 1.5 million sheets of paper signify in relation to environmental impact?

Well, a reduction of 1.5 million sheets of paper is equivalent to about 7.5 tons of paper. That’s a savings of close to 150 trees, 52,500 gallons of water, 22.5 cubic yards of landfill space, 450 pounds of air pollutants, and 14 barrels of oil, which is enough energy to power the average American home for almost 4 years.

Way to go, Gustavus!

David Fienen, Provost and Dean of the College

The recent focus on paper conservation is just another way that Gustavus is expanding its green efforts. “[As always], it’s a concern about the impact the institution is making on the environment both locally and globally,” said David Fienen, Provost and Dean of the College. The printing program in particular “has caused us as a community to think about the amount of paper we are using and it has raised environmental consciousness.”

Other ways in which Gustavus is keeping up the green spirit include:

  • having environmentally responsible coffee
  • having reusable Gustieware to-go containers available in the cafeteria
  • bringing various speakers to campus
  • participation in intercollegiate competitions, such as Recyclemania and the Minnesota Campus Energy Challenge
  • and more.

What better way to prepare students to be environmentally responsible citizens of the world than by first setting a positive example.


One Comment

  1. Allison Provine M Ed says:

    Great article, these programs need to be used everywhere. Wonder how much impact teaching students to use the Print Preview option for eliminating the printed papers that are wasted when not fitting on paper as expected.