Teachers, students use less paper to save money, environment

March 16, 2010 — by Karthik Sreedhara

Every year, the school consumes an enormous amount of electricity and natural resources. In turn, it produces tons of solid waste, and a substantial amount of that waste comes from the classrooms, where many tests, quizzes, projects and assignments done on paper are tossed in the garbage rather than recycled. In the past few years, however, SHS has taken numerous measures to become part of the trend towards going green.
A paper-less classroom?

In a society that is constantly progressing toward technology, there are several substitutes to using copious amounts of paper for classroom assignments. Reducing paper usage can reduce the amount of solid waste the school produces, and the amount of trees that must be cut to supply the paper.

“We’re doing a lot more things online, as opposed to buying books,” said principal Jeff Anderson. “That’s also actually out of necessity, because our book budget got cut by the state. It would save money.”

By converting to electronic documents, he said, the school can reduce a lot of solid waste because many students might not always recycle paper. Junior Daryl Chang believes that these changes are possible but still require student and teacher cooperation in order to create a successful effort.

“We still use lots of paper for tasks that could be done electronically,” Chang said. “The school has already made the switch to online report cards and electronic attendance records, so why not classroom assignments and textbooks as well?”

Anderson said teachers are playing an integral role in reducing paper usage.

“Teachers are making better decisions,” said Anderson. “They’re thinking, ‘Do I need to copy one for every kid in all my classes or can I just make a class set to discuss with the students, and reuse them for all my classes?'”

Social studies teacher Matt Torrens has successfully experimented with this switch to electronic resources this year. His world geography class has not used a textbook and has been using the textbook’s website if needed.

“In the beginning of the year, we had to make a lot of photocopies of the material, during the transition between textbooks and online resources,” said Torrens.

One example that Torrens gave about paper reduction is the usage of online quizzes instead of the paper maps that students used to turn in during class. Last year, students were required to complete four maps and a couple practice maps. With about five pieces of paper per student, and two classes with an average of 25 students, the paper usage for just the map assignment would total 250 pages. Comparably, an average tree can be converted to about 8,000 pages of paper, according to www.conservatree.org. Now, students complete all this online and send the results to Torrens.

“I’ve also been passing out very few worksheets, especially in my AP US History classes,” he said.

Torrens also noticed that students have become more responsible in terms of recycling in recent years.

“Kids are more aware now about the effects of wastage,” said Torrens. “They’re recycling more, as opposed to five or six years ago, when kids would just throw almost everything into the garbage can. I just try to encourage students to distinguish between paper and plastic when they recycle.”

Librarian Kevin Heyman said that the library has also made some changes to save paper. It has reduced its paper magazine subscriptions from 45 to 20, the rest being available online. In addition, instead of using books for research, Heyman has encouraged students to do most of their research on the online database on the library website.

“Using [the database] does not require paper, and it is a trove of constantly updated information,” said Heyman.

1 view this week