Middlebury switches to 100 percent recycled paper

Middlebury switches to 100 percent recycled paper

February 7, 2008

Middlebury Switches to 100% Recycled Content Papers



In keeping with its leadership in sustainability, Middlebury’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, Alison Byerly, announced that the College has adopted a policy  to use 100% recycled content (aka post consumer waste – PCW) , process chlorine free paper (PCF) in all printers and copiers and outsourced publications. The College has begun purchasing 100% PCW- PCF paper in place of the 30% PCW-PCF that it previously used for printers and copiers. The shift will see Middlebury reducing its consumption of trees, water and electricity by 300% compared with the 30% recycled content paper it has been using. The increase in cost would be as little as $100 per month. This small difference in cost could be easily offset by a 1.5% decrease in current usage.

Central to an understanding of the need for such a change is that paper manufacturing is the 4th largest source of air pollutants that contribute to respiratory problems. In addition, paper manufacturing releases large quantities of pollutants that are harmful for aquatic life. Industrialized nations with 20 % of the world’s population consume as much 87 % of the world’s printing and writing papers. Middlebury’s shift comes at a time when increasingly many institutions around the world are starting to realize the need for environmental conservation by reducing their consumption of natural resources.

In addition to switching to 100% PCW-PCF paper for printers and copiers, the policy also requires that high volume print pieces, such as the College Viewbook, be printed on 100% PCW-PCF paper. It also encourages the use of papers that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a highly respected, rigorous assurance that sustainable practices were used in the production of paper products. The policy actually validates a practice that is already in place because the following College publications are already being printed on FSC certified paper - and most of them are printed on paper produced by a company that also powers its plant with renewable wind energy:

* Middlebury College Stationery
* Middlebury College Search Piece
* Middlebury College Viewbook
* Middlebury Schools Abroad Viewbook
* Center for the Arts Calendar
* Rohatyn Center Annual Report
* Language School Viewbook
* Middlebury Monterey Brochure
* Middlebury Monterey Graduate Programs Viewbook

For paper used for outsourced jobs that require web-fed printing (e.g. the Middlebury Magazine) which cannot currently be done on 100% PCW-PCF paper, the policy calls for the highest percentage recycled content suitable for the job. Currently this is 10%, and hopefully this will increase to 30% or more as the technology improves.

Meanwhile, some specialty papers, including colored paper, will continue to be available through the College’s Reprographics print shop, the Bookstore and Purchasing. The highest available recycled content for these specialty papers will ultimately become the standard. This initiative helps Middlebury continue its march towards environmental sustainability- as is outlined in its policy statement.

The new policy was developed by the College’s Environmental Council which worked with a wide range of campus groups to assess paper usage and issues; researched the availability, quality and user experiences of 100% PCW-PCF papers; and conducted an extensive pilot program to test the performance of such paper. The Council’s recommendation to adopt the new policy was accepted by the College President Ron Liebowitz and put into effect shortly thereafter.

Although the difference between the two types of paper is hardly discernible, some are still skeptical about the difference such a small move can actually make to the environment. However, some like Simone Dinshaw, were extremely enthusiastic when asked about the College’s new initiative after having witnessed first hand the effects the global shift in temperature are causing. Having lost a couple of her relatives in the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Simone further opined that it is necessary not only for colleges, but for each of us in our individual space to protect the environment by making as small a contribution as we can.

The Environmental Council members view the change to 100% PCW-PCF paper as an important step forward by the College while recognizing that much work still remains to be done. They are encouraging other colleges and universities to join hands and to make the shift to 100% PCW-PCF paper on their campuses. Not only would that save more energy and protect the environment, it would allow distributors leverage to negotiate lower prices with suppliers, which would ultimately ensure that 100% PCW-PCF paper would be much more cheaply and readily available.

Despite the Middlebury community embracing this important change, it remains to be seen as to how much difference it will ultimately make. A greater goal can be achieved if Middlebury’s shift serves as a catalyst for other colleges and universities to follow suit. And that is when such shifts could really serve as the benchmarks for a much larger and much more effective change, by a whole community or even a whole nation.