By Kelsey Hulll ’14
Deserving of overwhelming recognition and praise are the efforts of The Admissions Office, Registrars Office, Financial Aid Office, Study Abroad Office, and Library in embracing innovative and sustainable solutions to significantly reduce paper use on campus. In turn, these efforts have greatly reduced the college’s energy and resource use, increased efficiency, and allowed for more thoughtful financial investments. These operations together represent the backbone of the college and exemplify that which creates the foundation for the sustainable and globally conscious community that Skidmore strives to be.
Admissions: The Skidmore Admissions Office is proud to announce that it has cut the cord on traditional applications, and was able to enroll the whole class of 2018 online! This transition has put creative and sustainable thought into action, and has saved the college time, energy, and incredible amounts of paper and resource use.
According to Matt Cohen, Associate Director of Admissions, the greatest motivation for the paperless shift was the environmental impact and efficiency. Most of the college’s “peer institutions” were either already doing it, had done it for years, or were getting ready to transition. After having 8,300 paper applications last year, The Office of Admissions implemented the Nolij (Perceptive) document imaging software for reading the applications online, and this year involved nearly 8,700 applications. In years past, the Office of Admissions would receive electronic papers and then print them before reading. With the new program student transcripts go through the system into Skidmore’s electronic reading system and is never printed.
The amount of fuel and time saved in the first year of the program, particularly regarding the partner system of application reading, was a benefit that wasn’t even considered when the program was undertaken. Before, readers needed to drive back and forth to drop off and pick up files so that each application was read through twice, but the new paperless application process allows a reader to send any file immediately to their partner by simply clicking a button. The Financial Aid Office joined the Admissions Office in the online transition, and has helped not only to reduce the college’s paper use but has become an increasingly appealing institution to incoming students.
When presenting to prospective students, Cohen noticed that high school students are more and more impressed with the college’s environmental progress and curious about the issues that are being addressed. After working with the college for fourteen years, before the college even had an Environmental Studies program, Cohen has noted that more students at sessions are asking to hear about environmental initiatives, and sees “knowing smiles in the crowd” when sharing about the bike program and online applications. The Admissions and Financial Aid office are part of a larger initiative across campus to embrace innovative techniques for sustainability. These changes are certainly something to smile about, and exemplify how multiple facets of the college proudly represent that which Skidmore stands for.
Library Printing System:
The Lucy Scribner Library has implemented a new printing system that has significantly reduced wasted paper. Despite initial confusion, in only the first semester of operation the new PaperCut program has saved incredible amounts of paper and has made a significant environmental impact in doing so. From January 1st to May 21st 2014, Skidmore has saved almost 115,000 pages of paper and the toner that goes on it!
PaperCut is a print management software system that encourages the responsible use of school and company resources and helps to create an environmentally friendly workplace (PaperCut). Supporting this program will only make a larger impact with each year, and allows students to take part in paper reduction efforts. What requires little change of student behavior and appears to make a minimal impact on a larger scale actually has an incredible influence on resource use and waste.
To help put paper reduction into perspective, PaperCut calculates the trees saved, co2 saved, and equivalent bulb hours realized from the program. According to their numbers, during the 2014 spring semester Skidmore saved 8.33 trees, 312.3 kg of C02, ore the equivalent of 19,660.2 hours of light bulb hours.
In addition to the clear environmental incentives to reducing the amount of printing on campus there is a clear economic incentive to shrink the perennial budget drain of wasted printing resources. The average school of 1,000 or university department of equivalent in size spends about $3,000 to $4,000 a month on paper, ink, and toner, not counting the printer wear-and-tear or technical support costs (Del, 2014). What makes costs grow exponentially, however, is the number of wasteful print jobs. By using PaperCut in the library, Skidmore has saved almost $1,500 dollars, and in the meantime has taken serious steps to reduce the College’s carbon footprint regarding paper use.
The United States alone, with less than 5% of the world’s population, consumes 30% of the world’s paper (MPCA). Creating paper requires natural resources, namely trees, water, and energy. The production of one piece of paper require more than 1.5 cups of water, and to produce just 1 tons of office paper requires the same amount of energy it takes to power the average home for 10 months. Rather than sequestering carbon in the atmosphere, 40% of tree wood pulp goes toward the production of paper (EPA 2014). Saving 400 reams of paper equates to 2.15 acres of pine forest absorbing carbon for one year.
Skidmore is taking a multifaceted approach to minimize resource use by reducing printing in the library, eliminating paper from the college application process, initiating a paperless records maintenance system, and transition to online forms. The many achievements we have already seen over the past year are only the beginning of what has become a contagious consciousness of the environmental, economic, and efficiency benefits of embracing sustainable paper use campus wide.
Registrars Office: Another player in the paper reduction efforts on campus is the Registrars Office, who are very excited to be moving to a paperless records maintenance system – an initiative that the college has been eager to take on for some time. The ultimate motivation is to reduce paper usage, but there are added benefits with regard to student services, security, streamlined processes, enhanced collaboration among departments, and overall increased efficiency.
Since the records for the new incoming Class of 2018 are digital, the student records area of the college now needs to have the ability to view and maintain these records. They have been working incredibly hard, in collaboration with the IT department, on the initial system configurations and will begin the process of converting all current and graduate records to digital form this summer. Over the next academic year they will also be implementing a supplementary product called Transforms, which supports online form submission and automated workflow processes. Instead of completing a paper form and running around campus to obtain signatures, students will be able to complete and submit forms online. Some examples of forms The Registrar hopes to eventually have online are; declaration of major/minor, withdrawal without grade penalty, independent study, and part time status. This particular product will significantly enhance the user experience for students, faculty, and administrators.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Paper Recycling. 2014 accessed by http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/paper/
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). http://184.108.40.206/paper/
PaperCut. Cut the cost of printing. 2014 www.papercut.com
Williams, Del. 2014. “How Much is Out-of-Control Printing Costing Your School?” Software Shelf. Accessed by:http://www.softwareshelf.com/HTML/products/prod_materials/23/PMP_Academic_Story.pdf