Today is Blog Action Day, dealing with the environment.  I’m new to blogging, so of course I found this out today.  However as I look around my office, it is abundantly clear what this scholar’s best opportunity for helping the environment is: Paper.

I generate a disturbing amount of paper.  Whether I am printing something to read it or scribbling notes the stuff is all over my office.  I’ve seen my advisor’s office and his doesn’t look much different.  So my advice for today is as follows:

  1. Buy recycled printer paper – With the possible exception of your application packet for a job they now have recycled paper that is bright white and heavy enough to be usable and is competitively priced.  If you print a lot of stuff out, using recycled paper is a nice way to save the environment for a lower price.
  2. Copy and paste stuff into one document – If you are surfing around and find a few lines here and there that are relevant, either put them all in 1 document to print or just save them in Zotero.  No need to print the entire web-page.
  3. Adjust your margins – the more text on a page, the fewer pages.  (This won’t always work; for example APA format requires 1 inch margins.  However that is for the final version – I can use quarter inch margins on my drafts if I want….)
  4. Print 2-sided – This cuts your paper consumption in half, makes the document take up less space and makes it weigh less.  You can set that up as the default behavior for your printer.  If your printer can’t print double-sided then start using pages you are done with and printing on the second side for drafts.
  5. Print 2+ pages to a side if you can – Many document types will do this and although the print is obviously smaller it again saves paper.  This one only works if you don’t need reading glasses, however.
  6. Use print preview – ESPECIALLY with things like Excel.  Excel is notorious for making ill-advised choices on where to split a page.  You can adjust it if you look at it first.  Otherwise you will end up with double the number of pages as you expect because it put the last column on a page by itself.  The web is also bad about this kind of thing, so make sure you know what will print and that it will be useful in that format BEFORE you send it to the printer.
  7. Print slides as handouts – Powerpoint offers the opportunity to print slides as handouts; in that mode you can put up to 6 slides on one page (3 is great if you want to take notes on the page) and to do so on pure black and white (which saves the more expensive colored inks).
  8. Sell old books that you no longer need – either at a used bookstore or in the Amazon Marketplace.  Always better to keep them circulating and in use so that fewer new ones need to be printed.
  9. Recycle the paper when you are done with it.  Every single sheet.  Also your junk mail, empty envelopes, everything.  I have an empty paper box in my office in which I collect recycling; when it gets full I put it into the recycling bin for our house.  Even stuff that gets shredded ends up in the recycling.  If you are devoted here it can really make a difference
  10. Finally, don’t print off the short stuff.  I find that most long articles are easier to read on paper, but that does NOT apply to a short 2-3 pager.  If you don’t need to print it in the first place, don’t.  Find your own tolerance and push the limits.

These are easy changes to make for the most part, but ones that are likely to have an impact if only due to the sheer volume of paper involved.  Give a few of them a try.

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day