SU Cuts Down on Paper Consumption

Written by Catie Ertel

At the beginning of the semester, new restrictions were put into place on student printing via the printing system “Pirate Prints”.

“The primary reason is awareness,” said Director of Technology Support & Academic Computing Sharon Fass, who headed and carried out the change. “The second reason is maintenance.”

Though the idea was being pushed for years, Pirate Prints was implemented at the beginning of the semester, giving each student $35 in “green bucks,” or theoretical printing money, to use on about 500 sheets of paper at 7 cents each, the equivalent to a ream of paper. In the new system, students must retrieve a printing job after signing into a queue next to the printers. Their user name and password are the same as their username/password for their MySouthwestern account.

Students are limited to 50 pages at a time, and cannot print more than one copy of something. If a student has a duplicate printing job, it is erased within ten seconds of being in the queue. Finally, if a job is in the queue for 30 minutes before a student retrieves it, it is erased.

Each restriction was put in place to address some issues with waste that ITS was having in the computer labs. “Students would print things for class, then rush off and leave it in the printer,” said Todd Watson, another ITS employee.

In 2006, a total of 900,000 sheets of paper were used on campus. The reams of paper used, if stacked, would have reached a height three times that of the Chapel. In terms of maintenance, the printers were constantly in need of service. Overall in 2006, the amount of money spent by the university on printers and printer maintenance totaled $19,802.50. Since then, the cost has risen.

The majority of these figures come from the months of September, October, and April. Fass attributes the amount of paper used, especially in September and October, to the professors that post the readings for their classes on Segue in PDF formats, where then students find them and print them off.

As mentioned, ITS had been considering the idea of using a printing system that could cut down on such waste for years. They researched several companies that could do this, but chose an Australian based company called Papercut, which focused on printing systems for educational purposes.

“Other companies were 10-15 times more expensive than this one,” said Watson, “and not only is Papercut cheaper, but it has more efficiency than other companies.”

“We tried to make it as easy as possible,” Fass said. ITS workers have tried to simplify the process of the queue, such as making double- sided printing standard to help get the most out of each print.

However, the new system has gained mixed reactions from the student body. Many think it is confusing despite efforts to make it “user friendly”. Others think it is inconvenient.

“I think that it’s more trouble than it’s worth,” said Sophomore Ann Alston. “It takes several times longer to print something than it did last year.”

Several students have not yet become familiar with the system and, as a result, they think printing has become a hassle. Still others think the idea is pointless because they don’t believe a single student will use up all 500 sheets of paper that they are allotted. However, still other students are in support of the new printing system.

“I think it’s a good idea if it reduces paper,” said Sophomore Jolie Delcambre. Delcambre is a student worker at ITS whose job requires her to bring boxes of paper to where they are needed and load them into the printers.

Student organizations such as SU Magazine and others have voiced their concern at this new printing system. While individual student leaders and members have accounts in Pirate Prints, each organization does not, causing the members and leaders to have to use their own accounts. Fass and Watson are addressing this issue, considering creating cards similar to those of the faculty departments for each organization to use for printing.

Though no student organizations were involved in establishment of Pirate Prints, the environmental aspect has become a huge part of the system’s introduction. At the bottom of the screens of each account there are numbers showing the percentage of a tree one has used so far in printing, the amount in grams of carbon dioxide emitted from the print, and the amount of energy used in terms of hours of running a 60W lightbulb. Each of these theoretical figures, as well as a record of how many “green bucks” used and total print jobs, can be found by logging into the Pirate Prints site at

As for the environmental impact concerning trees, the site Paper University at gives figures on how much of a tree is used by paper. The site states that only a third of the fibers used for paper actually come from trees harvested for paper making. Another third comes from left over scraps in mills, and the final third comes from recycled paper. Of the trees harvested for paper making, the majority of them would be harvested for lumber or die anyway. Because it’s not economical to use large trees for lumber, only trees less than 8 inches in diameter or unsuitable for wood products are used for paper-making.

As for the amount of wood used to make paper, Paper University states that one “chord” of wood (a stack of wood 8 feet wide, 4 feet deep, and 4 feet high) can make 1,000-2,000 pounds of paper. That’s almost half the amount the university used in 2006.

Though the impact of the new printing system has not yet been calculated, the administrators of ITS have complete faith that it will cut down on maintenance costs and paper waste. “It will more than pay for itself,” Watson said.

Despite mixed feelings on the Pirate Print system, Fass believes that it will not go away any time soon. Instead, students will have to get used to it.

This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply