New printing policy helps reduce waste

By Sean Ryan

Many students have noticed the change in printing policy that has occurred since the beginning of the spring semester; everyone is now required to log in using their Macalester username and password before printing in the library and at the Humanities Resource Center. There have been a lot of complaints from students regarding the change in policy, and many have wondered if this heralds the first step in the institution of a semester printing limit for individual students. For many years, students at Macalester have enjoyed the privilege of unlimited printing, an entitlement that is nonexistent at many other schools, several of which have limits of 300 to 400 pages per semester per student.

I wholeheartedly support this new effort to measure the number of pages being printed by individuals, especially if it leads to a thoughtful debate regarding the possible implementation of such a limit in the interest of reducing one of the largest sources of waste on campus. For a school that prides itself on environmental sustainability, as evidenced by the Presidential Initiative for Curricular Renewal that encourages courses with a focus on sustainability, the college-wide sustainability plan to be carbon neutral by 2025, and the LEED-certified Institute for Global Citizenship, the amount of paper waste generated by students is unduly large, to the tune of over 300,000 pages each year.

While it is understandable that most students find it difficult to read articles online, and that a large number of professors request that students bring reading material to class while also banning laptops in the classroom, both still have a responsibility to consider issues of sustainability. I have personally printed thirty-page articles that I neither read nor brought to class, and I have seen others print over 100 pages at a single time, including an Environmental Studies article I once saw abandoned next to Bob, one of the more ironic examples of paper waste.

All efforts to reduce printing must be implemented along with a larger campus-wide understanding among faculty, staff, and students about the difficulties of becoming more sustainable, including in particular any regressive effects that a fee for printing beyond the limit would have on lower-income students. At the same time, it is necessary to move past the current status quo where the amount and cost of printing is all too easy to ignore. In the interest of reducing waste and environmental hypocrisy at such a seemingly progressive institution, the library’s efforts to monitor printing should be applauded, encouraged, and continued.

Sean Ryan ’13 is a Staff Writer for The Mac Weekly and can be reached at

[email protected]