Paper is a hot commodity on college campuses, but the University of Central Oklahoma is making efforts to reduce paper use.
UCO has joined a national group of 12 schools working to eliminate excess waste through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Students and faculty with UCO's sustainability office just got back from a workshop in Texas, where they brainstormed the most practical ways to use less paper, and this is just their latest step towards going green.
“It’s going to save the university money and it’s environmentally friendly, so it’s kind of a win-win from my perspective,” says Eric Hemphill, who serves as assistant director for sustainability at UCO.
Hemphill and his sustainability team are dedicated to being responsible stewards of the earth, and sharing that knowledge. They have already installed recycling bins throughout campus and cultivated multiple student-run community gardens.
The goal is to show others that protecting the environment is really about protecting themselves. “There’s such a disconnect,” says junior Mary Bixler. “I don’t see how much CO2 emissions when I’m driving or how much water I’m wasting, so we’re trying to get students to connect a little bit.”
Bixler heads up Students for Sustainability, a group that engages with their peers to raise awareness. She says reducing paper waste will likely be more of a challenge for professors than students, though. “It’s a conversation that we need to have with our faculty as well,” she says, “that students actually, I think they would have better responses on these types of things if they were online.”
The first step in the project is a survey about paper habits circulating campus this fall. Then in the spring, the team will work with professors on practical ways to transition more electronic documents. “From there,” says Hemphill, “we can kind of see best practices and what works and what doesn’t, and we can kind of go forward with what works best for UCO from there.”
The data collected will be compared to the 11 other universities participating in the project for the AASHE.