Teachers should minimize paper waste by printing less

December 8, 2019 — by Kavita Sundaram

With growing cost, inefficiency and waste, schools should gravitate more toward electronic resources instead of paper ones.


Schools use a lot of paper for notes, homework, tests, quizzes and pretty much everything else.

With resources like Canvas and Google Drive, it's not unreasonable for teachers to make more digital copies of things instead of paper ones. 

Granted, some materials like notes and homework can be a lot more effective as physical copies. Other tests and exams are more foolproof as paper copies. However, for articles, rubrics, and study guides, items that appear abundantly in students’ binders and often go without being used, digital copies are a cheaper and more eco-friendly alternative.        

As just one example among many possible ones,  a world history teacher Jerry Sheehy distributes well over 200 sheets of printed paper to each student each semester. With paper costing approximately $0.013 per page, 25 students in each class and five classes adds up to a grand total of $325 worth of paper used in one history class. 

While this might not seem like a lot, this is the cost of only one class. Most students have around six different classes to boot. Along with this, the cost does build up over time, taking away from other expenses.

Aside from cost, the bigger issue is the lack of consciousness when it comes to paper use, and even recycling doesn’t rectify the wastage.

According to an article by Postconsumers, less than two-thirds of material meant to be recycled is actually recycled. This is because of cost, impurities in the substances and mislabeled items. Nor can all papers with ink be recycled. Papers with pigment-based ink can be recycled, but those with dye-based ink, the ink that most printers tend to use, cannot be recycled. The same holds true for paper with impurities such as adhesives and lamination.

 So even for teachers who think recycling is their saving grace, it’s not. The prospect of reusing might seem like a perfect solution, but most of the time, that is not what it’s cut out to be. A simpler solution would be for teachers to begin using online resources more instead of printing out endless supplies of paper, ultimately saving both waste and money.   


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