Over the past few years, Colgate has made a lot of progress in advancing sustainability on campus. We have reduced our campus carbon footprint by 34 percent while achieving over $500,000 per year in avoided spending on energy, water, and other precious resources. Perhaps the most astonishing progress has been in our use of printer and copier paper on campus. In 2009, the Colgate community collectively purchased over 12.3 million sheets of paper. If stack up, that would have been taller than three Empire State Buildings in height.
Last year, Colgate purchased less than 3.6 million sheets of paper. That’s a 71 percent reduction in paper use or a savings of 8.7 million sheets of paper. That’s the approximate equivalent of 550 trees saved per year!
What has led to this reduction in paper consumption? Certainly, digital technologies and an increased awareness of printing only when necessary have contributed. We also set campus printers to double-sided printing a few years back and installed print-release stations that eliminates most accidental or otherwise unclaimed print jobs.
A few years ago, a few of our more environmentally and cost-conscious employees began collecting perfectly good “scrap” paper from other departments. Instead of purchasing new paper, they would simply “recycle” this used paper with printing on only one side by running it through their own printers. According to Roxanne Benson, who has been working in Outdoor Education for the past 8 years, she has never purchased new printer paper. She has always been able to collect old paper from other departments. Recently, however, Roxanne’s stockpile of paper has been running low. When she contacted all her “usual suspects” for a new supply, she was dismayed to discover they had none to spare. They thought Roxanne’s practice of reusing paper was such a good one that they began doing the same. While this best practice may be good for Colgate and for our environment, it means hard times for our more sustainably-minded community members. Chin up, Roxanne, and thank you for helping to advance sustainability at Colgate!