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Think of the environment, make fewer copies

UM should do more to reduce copying and printing

The average UM student is responsible for 12 kilograms of CO2 per year caused by printing and copying, says the on-screen message on UM computers. This is a good initiative, thinks Beatrice Riley, a master’s student from Great Britain. But why does this message only target students as the main culprits? UM should do more to reduce printing and copying.

When I logged on to the UM computers this week I received an on-screen message imploring me, as a student, to think of the environment and make fewer copies.

Upon reading this message, on the one hand I was happy that someone at UM is taking steps towards preservation of the environment. On the other hand, I was disappointed that this message targets students as the main culprits, while the university does little to facilitate a reduction in printing.

I imagine that students object to the amount of printing they are obliged to do as much as the university. At 5 cents a page it is an expensive ‘luxury’ that I am sure they would be more than happy to cut back on. 

Perhaps the university could contact the library and work on this together? The Randwyck Library has, in some cases, 10–15 copies of the same book lining the shelves that can only be used in the library, while there are only one or two available to be borrowed – almost always already on loan. If students were allowed to take more books home, they wouldn’t need to spend an evening in the library, their limited funds, or the planet’s resources.

Is the paper in the printers and photocopiers recycled? Why does the university not give students the possibility to scan the pages as pdf files, as is customary in other universities like that of Bremen, Germany?

The university should be applauded for this first initiative and getting the debate going. But the students are not the only ones who can decrease their carbon footprint by sensible changes in behaviour. In the coffee shops, for example, I find it surprising that, in 2011, we are still using paper cups and then tossing them into landfill after a single use!

In the Inner City Library last week I asked the lady to put my coffee in a cup that I had brought from home, instead of a paper one. It was refused, citing managerial policy to use only paper cups. Why is this managerial policy? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to use reusable cups and, as a minimum, ask the question ‘drink it here or take away’?

There is a lot individuals can do to take responsibility for the environment. A multi-faceted approach of an entire institution as large as UM, however, is likely to have a much stronger impact.

Drawing attention to the problem is a good start. To take things further, the university can do many things to work towards creating an atmosphere in which the easiest choice is the most environmentally friendly one, and I am sure that the great majority of students would be more than happy to participate.  


Beatrice Riley



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