Middlebury, Vt. — Can innovative computer programming and a poke at the conscience help reduce paper waste on campus? Officials at Middlebury College hope so. Students, faculty and staff at the college recently received a note in their email boxes with the slightly cryptic return address, “Count Paper.” The message notified readers of how many sheets of paper they had used for printing on networked printers across campus.
Count Paper, of course, is not a real person or a Halloween spoof, but rather a joint initiative of the college’s environmental council, library and information services, and community council. The project was designed to raise awareness about wasteful printing. One of the college’s computer programmers created a counter which tallies the number of pages printed by each user and generates the automatic notifications. It is completely anonymous with no record of what, where or when a person prints.
The college hopes to cut its printing paper waste by 50% through multiple efforts including double-sided printing and the paper count. “We believe that most people, with a gentle reminder and specific information, will work to reduce their consumption,” said Carol Peddie, associate dean of library and information services.
The response from computer users has been overwhelmingly positive according to to the college’s office of Library and information Services, which engineered the experiment.
“I have received comments ranging from ‘thank you’ to ‘This is great and way past due,’” said Peddie. “The few negative comments we received were because people felt they should have been informed ahead of time about the program.”
The project began as a charge from the environmental council to Library and Information Services to do something about the paper waste on campus. “Just walk into any computer lab and look at all the print jobs that were never even picked up!” says Peddie. “We’re aiming to be carbon neutral by 2016 and we need to look at all areas of consumption.”