Saving Paper at School

This is my fifth year teaching environmental science (seventh year teaching), and I feel more and more responsibility to be a good role model for my students.

Paper use is a constant battle in our school.  Not only is paper expensive, it’s often wasted.  Nothing frustrates me more than finding a piece of paper abandoned on the floor (except maybe when I’ve lent out all my pens and have nothing to write with).

Over the years, I’ve found ways to reduce my paper usage in school.  It started a few years ago when I threw the problem out to my AP students and asked them to brainstorm solutions.  One of the great ideas that came out of the class was making a CD of supplemental articles,  powerpoint notes, study guides, and lab documents for each chapter.  I’ve done this with my AP class for a few years, and I have to say it takes quite a bit of organization on both ends to make it work.

In my other classes, I’ve found a few simple ways to conserve paper, too.  I find that many handouts are unnecessary (which is why they end up on the floor or in the trash/recycle bin, instead of in notebooks). 

  • In lab, I’ll often project powerpoint slides with directions instead of making a copy for each student.  I’ll then attach that powerpoint to my school website, so students can download it as a resource when writing up their report. 
  • I’ll also use the website by linking to an article that I’d like students to read for homework instead of printing a copy for each student.  It’s actually easier to work this way, since I don’t have to spend time standing in line for the copier or clearing paper jams (which in turn wastes more paper).

Sometimes, however, I have to use paper.  There are some things that just can’t be done without it (think quizzes and tests), and while I’d love to have a “paperless” classroom, I really don’t believe it’s possible without a computer for each student.  Still, when I use paper, I’m always cautious to conserve. 

  • Making double-sided copies is a great start, since it will cut paper consumption in half. 
  • If the assignment is short, for example five analysis questions, I’ll often put two or more copies on one page, then cut them up so each student gets a partial piece of paper. 
  • I’m also conscious of page number in larger assignments.  I always hate when there’s one line that heads onto another sheet of paper.  I’ll fiddle with the font and formatting to get that last line back onto the previous page, being cautious to keep the font big enough to read and to keep the document from looking squished. 
  • Finally, I never make extra copies.  I’ve found that students become more responsible for their papers when spares aren’t easy to come by.  I will, however, link documents to my website so students can download important papers that they’ve lost.

At home, I hardly ever print anything for personal use.  Instead, I copy recipes online recipes into a notebook which creates my own little cookbook.  I’ll also copy driving directions onto a scrap piece of paper or junk mail. 

What do you do to save paper?

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9 Comments

Filed under Sustainable Living

9 responses to “Saving Paper at School

  1. I upgraded to a Blackberry. Saved me loads already in scraps of paper for around the house and office. I feel like a total nerd, but it helps me! The phone contract was up and we both got new phones for 13 dollars! :D

    At the office, instead of making copies of assignments from the student books, I put sheet protectors over the pages and the kids use erasable markers to write and then reuse each page. The kids sometimes complain it’s ghetto and the owner complained about spending all this money on page protectors, but she hasn’t bought the usual crate of paper this year!

    The biggest waste of paper at my office was the teacher contact letters and contacts with the parents. I started out with first getting each parent’s email so that I could email any communication I needed to have with them instead of sending home a note in an envelope… which was frequently lost. That worked well, so I asked around and found that the teachers would prefer contact through the email than dealing with a letter. Now all contacts are done through email. I have a file in my computer for each child, the letters and the authorization letter (which I scanned).

    AND… there is now a giant recycling bin at the office. I’m the only one who goes through the trash to get the paper out, but it makes it to the center.

  2. I’m a teacher too. An art teacher. Boy, can WE go through paper! I have a box for all discarded sheets that have one good side; I use these first. The kids get surprises on their handouts. We recycle canvas boards(cardboard), and recycle the paper that cannot be reused. I also do a unit on “Green Art” that requires the use of recycled materials; we save up alot right before that unit. You’d be surprised how creative kids can be!

  3. Ugh, I really feel like our family is taking its toll on the planet these past 2 weeks . . . between diapering, breast milk pads, and the strange increase in garbage (gifts, frozen meals from neighbors and friends?), I am feeling super guilty.

    But we are still making something of an effort. We recycle everything. I break boxes down whether it be cereal boxes, gift boxes, food packaging, etc. and recycle these items with newspaper, scrap papers from art projects, mail (with plastic parts pulled out), toilet paper rolls (yes I realize we could go totally paperless there but I still haven’t taken that step) . . .

    One of the best ways we reduce paper use is by minimizing and eliminating the use of paper towels in our home . . . we still buy them (though for a while I’d convinced my other half that we didn’t need them) though I refuse to use them for cleaning (I simply use old painters’ rags, socks, etc. to wipe down furniture, our floors, mirrors).

  4. We struggle with this a lot, since my 4-year-old LOVES to colour and tears through paper at an alarming rate.

    We get people to bring us old scrap paper for her to use, which helps. Right now she’s using the blank side of a bunch of referral sheets my mother-in-law had from her work as a nurse.

    We cloth diaper and use cloth wipes for the baby. And I’ve stopped buying new gift wrap – we use old drawings or one of the dozens of gift bags that have found their way into our house. It’s a constant process. And sometimes I backslide on it because I’m using paper preferentially over plastic. In a situation like that I’m OK with it, though, because I feel paper is the lesser of two evils.

  5. Rob

    I take flyers that are given me whether or not I want them at Car Shows (When you drive a convertible, people feel the need to rto just put them on your seat or throught an open window. One thing I do with my flyers for are upcoming show is put them on a small table and encourage folks to take on if they are interested- saves me from walking around like a dork doing the same thing that gripes me about others. Anyway I take the flyers so kindly left for me and use the backsides of them for note taking or scratch paper.
    Or i will print things out on the blank side of paper. (When I must print things out) That way they get used on both sides before I shred them and make worm bedding out of them or recycle them.
    I do the same thing at work. Every once in a while I turn in paper work that I have scribbled things on the backside of… my boss is so pleased when I do this. Not.

  6. We wrap presents as creatively as we can using: newspaper, old maps, pages from my kids used coloring books, shopping bags from department stores turned inside out. (Great blog, btw, I’ve just discovered you and will be coming back!)

  7. Samantha Richardson

    I do medical billing online for a company that is based out of New Orleans (I live in San Diego). The co. I work for receives most of their work by fax (ugh!) and they scan it and send it to me online. I used to have to then print all those pages to work from and ultimately fax many of them back to the office for follow-up. It drove me CRAZY wasting all that paper (not to mention the countless hours I’d spend fighting with a shredder when all was said and done). A few years back I began using a laptop with an additional monitor, just to avoid wasting paper. (And I get 100% of my electricity from solar power so I don’t have to feel guilty about using extra electricity, either! YAY!)

  8. janelle

    Just a question regarding your classes (I’ve just come across your site and excuse me if the answer is somewhere I haven’t been yet) and the income of the students’ families… are you sure all of your students have internet access at home (or wherever they do their homework) to use your web page and the links you provide there? Do all your AP students have a computer (to read the CD)? Or do you have paper copies available for students (for whatever reason) who don’t have access to your non-paper copies? And a way for them to get the paper copy that doesn’t single them out as “not having a computer”?

    Students in families with lower income already have many obstacles to overcome when it comes to living and school (food access, many have jobs/less or no time to do homework, care for younger siblings, etc.), and it would be sad that you are adding another one unintentionally just because you’re trying to be more environmentally conscious.

    • I would be happy to provide paper copies for students who do not have computer/internet access at home. However, I have to say that in my AP classes, I have yet to encounter a student without computer access. Those who don’t have computers have access to computers in the library during their study halls, before and after school, and lunch. So these motivated students make it work.

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