I met with a group of students recently to discuss technology; where we are now, the challenges in funding, and where we want to be in 2-3 years. They shared a number of valuable perspectives.
One issue that bubbled up that concerns me greatly. Students use our public clusters a lot. Whether to jump online between classes, more in-depth surfing or writing papers, the convenience is obvious. But they also seem to flock to computer clusters for the printing. They can write on their own computers, but they like to print on campus printers. And why wouldnâ€™t they? We provide a large printing quota that, if exceeded, can be increased by a simple request.
Students can print at will. Print a draft, or two or three, then final copies. They are sometimes required by instructors to print several copies of their papers for distribution in class to others. It is not uncommon to see hordes of paper printed and often discarded to recycle bins just as quickly.
The cost of printing is yet another matter. Reams upon reams of paper are consumed. Toner cartridges are replaced often. High volume printers need replacement parts and have to be upgraded every few years. It is one personâ€™s job to keep pace with daily printer needs around campus.
The promise of a paperless world is a concept unproved. In fact, it seems that we are printing more than ever. I understand. While I spend a lot of time reading online, it is still easier and quicker to have that paper in hand.
However, there is a cost to that convenience. And as I preach, change is about modifying behavior.
We are a â€˜greenâ€™ campus. We promote environmentally friendly themes. This is an area of conspicuous consumption we could address.
How? First raise awareness. Help the campus understand the cost and impact to the environment. Then, engage discussion among faculty, talk about how can we use the technology tools at our disposal to work more online and demote rampant printing. Finally, place appropriate signage and information about printing in the labs.
The funding we save over time would be significant. And we would practice what we preach as environmentalists.