U might mandate 2-sided printing, recycled paper in labs

Nathan Halverson

The University might soon make double-sided printing and recycled paper mandatory in all University computer labs.

The University Senate’s Social Concerns Committee unanimously passed the resolutions, sponsored by the University group Ecowatch, on Monday. However, several higher-ranking officials must approve the recommendations before the changes can eventually be implemented.

The resolution would mean every department in the Twin Cities, Morris, Duluth and Crookston campuses would use a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer waste paper.

Additionally, the four campuses will also have double-sided printers phased in to every computer lab, library and department as new machines are purchased.

“Paper conservation will, in the long run, save money for these departments,” said Brian Wachutka, University natural resources senior and Ecowatch spokesman.

Wachutka said University departments currently purchase their paper as they need it from an in-house purchasing center called University Stores.

The percentage of “post-consumer waste” refers to the number of fibers within the paper that have been recycled from discarded materials.

Ecowatch is loosely affiliated with Free the Planet!, a Washington-based nonprofit organization.

Wachutka and others formed the student group, which has 10 volunteers, in September 2002.

“People have been working for years to promote the use of recycled paper here at the ‘U,’ ” Wachutka said. “But to my knowledge, this is the first attempt at getting a policy in place that requires departments to only use recycled paper.”

Renee Dempsey, a University Senate committee specialist, said the resolution would be sent to the Senate Consultative Committee at its first meeting in October.

Dempsey said if it is approved there, it will then be distributed to the Senate for information.

“If it passes there, it’s sent to the administration, but it’s up to their discretion whether or not to enforce the resolution,” Dempsey said.

Wachutka said Ecowatch had campaigned for these resolutions for approximately nine months. He said they are also working with corporations like OfficeMax and Office Depot to sell and stock more recycled paper.

Wachutka said Ecowatch is working with several other student groups and national environmental agencies on negotiations with the corporations. Office Depot recently agreed to exclusively sell 30 percent post-consumer waste paper.

According to Ecowatch research, the University uses 210 million sheets of paper per year. Currently, 65 percent of paper purchased is recycled.

“There’s no written policy, but we do of course provide recycled paper to whoever wants it,” said Lynn Hein, purchasing manager for University Stores. “It’s ultimately up to each individual department, but I’ve been pushing for this for years.”

Hein said recycled paper was first introduced at the University in 1991.

College of Biological Sciences computer labs offered free printing until last summer when it was determined to be too costly because of excessive noneducational uses.

“I feel really bad because it’s abuses that really determine everything for everybody else,” said Jane Phillips, a coordinator for the CBS computer labs.

Phillips said she is not convinced that duplex printing causes the vast majority of technical follow-ups within the labs.

“Staff time for troubleshooting problems is our number one expense, but duplex printing is pretty much the bane of my existence at this point,” she said.

Jamil Jabr, an information technology manager for the St. Paul campus, said using recycled paper could mean sacrificing print quality.

“The problem is that the quality of new paper is much better than recycled paper,” he said. “They want to give students a superior product, but they are of course willing to change to lower-quality paper if that’s what the students really want.”

Jabr said other issues that could complicate the resolution include instructors who insist on one-sided printing for assignments and graphic design students, who usually prefer their printouts on one side.

“I totally want this to be the students’ call,” Jabr said. “I’m an instructor here, too, and one way I’ve helped severely reduce environmental impact is simply by having my students e-mail their assignments.”