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Student view

by Jillian Terry

Colouring your classes green

Like much of the world’s population, many students have been swept up in the recent wave of activism and discussion about the environment and how to make the world a greener place for all its citizens.

Whether you’ve heard it from Stéphane Dion, Al Gore, David Suzuki, or even from a viral YouTube video forwarded to you from a particularly eco-conscious friend, the message remains largely the same: drive less, recycle more, eat local, turn off the lights.

The list goes on, but a lot of the content doesn’t particularly appeal to students, many of whom are already using public transportation, walking or bicycling to school, and have grown up in an era where it’s a natural habit to turn off a light when you leave the room. Much of what is being preached by well-known environmentalists feels a little like common knowledge to us members of this newfound green generation.

But while we seem to have these basics down pat and can probably do without the reminder, there are other ways for students to adopt greener attitudes through their actions in the classroom. Most importantly, and perhaps most overlooked, is the careful usage of paper.

As one of this country’s most abundant renewable resources, it’s easy to forget that paper can be abused just as easily as water or fossil fuels. And as part of the institution of post-secondary education, where paperwork abounds from the start to finish of your academic career, it’s almost impossible to escape a daily paper consumption rivalling the length of a short novel.

But, by keeping a few simple things in mind throughout the semester as the articles, labs, and term papers build up, it’s possible to at least make a serious dent in the amount of paper products you useon campus.

Have you ever tried to hurriedly print something off at one of the public printers in the Commons right before class, only to discover that the student ahead of you in the print queue has decided to print the entire term’s worth of PowerPoint presentations made available online by their professor?

Ten minutes and a half tank of black ink later, you will probably feel frustrated that someone would ever do such a thing. And it’s not just the time spent that makes it frustrating – printing slides off is one of the most wasteful things you can do as a student. Not only is there a high percentage of wasted space on each page – especially if you choose to print one slide per sheet – but the large fonts, backgrounds, and images professors often include in presentations take up both paper and ink that could be much better used elsewhere. Instead of printing off the slides themselves, try copying the text either into a notebook, or into a word processing document so it can be formatted to a reasonable size font and spacing pattern in order to maximize the space on the page.

What about printing documents in general? Most professors want papers and assignments handed in double-spaced, which is clearly not the most environmentally friendly printing option.

To combat against this, there are two things you can do either at home or at school to make the work you hand in greener.

First, choose a lower print quality. Virtually all printers give you the option of three print qualities, the lowest usually referred to as a draft or low quality of print. But if it’s just text you’re printing, the difference in quality is almost invisible to the naked eye, and will save you and the environment from purchasing more ink than is necessary.

Second – and this is a big one – print double-sided. It may be a little bit of a hassle at home, having to flip over the pages to print on the reverse side, but it’s worth it in the long run when you use half the amount of paper you would have originally.

Also, did you know that one of the public printers in the Commons now prints on both sides? Just ask one of the friendly staff at the library and they’ll gladly show you where it is and how to use it.

There are dozens of more things you can do as a student to cut down on your paper usage at school, but I’ll mention just one more. The library has thousands of e-journals available at your fingertips online – so instead of photocopying articles that your professor puts on reserve, download them. And if you’re not okay with reading from a computer screen, use the reserve for its two-hour period by reading the original copy.

While photocopying may seem like the easiest solution, it’s also the one that has the most harmful effect on the environment.

This and the other suggestions to cut down on paper usage are just guidelines – brainstorm and think of other specific parts of your daily life where you can find alternatives to paper products.

Paper won’t always be plentiful in this country, and it’s time we start thinking of the next generation of university students and what kind of world we’re leaving to them.