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Shaming & naming to cut paper waste

There is a competition being held at the hospital where I currently am doing my elective (I am a med student) where a prize will be given to the few people who can come up with the most creative, easy, and practical ways to reduce printing levels and paper wastage at the hospital.

I’m not even sure I’m eligible as a med student, but I figured I’d offer suggestions nonetheless as it kills me to see how much paper is wasted.

So below are a few of my suggestions and those of my husband (a bit more creative). Thought I’d post them here in case anyone had any ideas to share.
My paper-saving printing options:

1) Double-sided – make that the default option rather than single-sided so if people want single-sided they have to change the options….not sure all printers can do double-sided but maybe switch to more that can if many can’t.

2) Fast draft – again make that the default option as it looks as good as “quality print” but uses much less ink (I think). And then if someone wants really high quality, they can change the option.

3) Multiple pages per sheet – give instructions pasted on above the computer about how to go into “properties” and print multiple pages per sheet if they don’t need large print.

4) Scrap paper pile to resuse – have a pile of scrap paper next to the printer (single-sided paper that is no longer needed) that people can use if they don’t mind using draft paper and also have instructions above that pile as to which side up (the printed side or blank side) to place the paper in the printer.

And now for my husband’s ideas– I like his idea about having a bit of competition between departments and announcing the useage each month or trimonthly or whatever would be possible, that way people are more accountable for what they print:

1) Don’t print emails, or if you print them print only last and not all the previous emails.

2) Reduce font size to allow more words per page. Forget double spacing. Make these default options.

3) Introduce scanners so files/documents and only printed when absolutely neccesary can be kept digitally.

4) Shaming and naming & credit.

  • Introduce a competition – Which Department can use less paper? Give a prize and publish results. Also which department has had the largest % reduction from current use (as some departments may of necessity be higher users.
  • Give feedback – Who uses the most? How much is used? How much does it cost? How many trees is that? How much landfill?

Of course, I would have no idea how many trees we are killing per month with our office printouts so I did a bit of research and found a few statistics from the conservation group Conservatree that make it much easier to convert paper use into trees killed:

  • 1 ton of uncoated virgin (non-recycled) printing and office paper uses 24 trees
  • 1 ton of 100% virgin (non-recycled) newsprint uses 12 trees
  • A “pallet” of copier paper (20-lb. sheet weight, or 20#) contains 40 cartons and weighs 1 ton. Therefore,
  • 1 carton (10 reams) of 100% virgin copier paper uses .6 trees
  • 1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333.3 sheets
  • 1 ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree (and those add up quickly!)
  • 1 ton of coated, higher-end virgin magazine paper (used for magazines like National Geographic and many others) uses a little more than 15 trees (15.36)
  • 1 ton of coated, lower-end virgin magazine paper (used for newsmagazines and most catalogs) uses nearly 8 trees (7.68)

I do think when people see what they are wasting- perhaps a visual representation of the hospital’s paper waste for the month posted in the form of number of trees (the way on construction sites they post number of days since last accident)-, they feel more accountable for their actions.

There’s something immediate about reading on a wall: “We killed 1000 trees this month.” It makes you think twice before hitting the print button.