Paper cuts

Marking progress on one of the key goals for reducing the waste stream at UMass Medical School, for the second year in a row the school has cut the amount of paper used for printing and photocopying. 

In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, the school purchased 6,398 cases of paper, nearly 10 percent less than the previous year’s total of 7,096 cases. In fiscal year 2009, the school purchased 7,224 case of paper, which equates to 36.1 million individual sheets. 

“This is a positive trend, and I think there are many contributing factors to the reduction,” said Jeff DiCiaccio, senior director of purchasing, and a member of the school’s Sustainability Committee. 

DiCiaccio credits the reduction in paper usage to increased community awareness, fostered by targeted presentations, newsletters, and signage urging people to conserve. Better use of technology, such as scanning documents rather than faxing, electronic document storage, and “duplexing” or printing on both sides of a sheet of paper are also on the rise, he said.

“I think people are making better choices of what needs to be printed, and that’s progress,” DiCiaccio said. 

In addition to cutting the amount of paper used, UMass Medical School continues to purchase a significant amount of paper with recycled content. Of the paper purchased in fiscal 2011, 1,695 cases were made from recycled content, about 26 percent of the total—similar to the fiscal 2010 mark of 27 percent recycled. In fiscal 2009 only 13 percent of paper used had recycled content, and in fiscal 2008 only 4 percent of the total was made from recycled content. 

Melissa Lucas, manager of sustainability and energy efficiency, praised the campus community for their ongoing focus on paper-usage. The dramatic growth in the use of recycled paper is particularly meaningful, she said, because it’s had a big impact on closing the price gap between recycled paper, and so-called virgin paper, which is made from fresh wood pulp.

In fiscal 2008, the cost of a case of recycled paper was 12 percent more than a case of virgin paper. In fiscal 2011, however, the virgin paper actually cost 1.5 percent more than the recycled paper. “When we change our behaviors on a large scale, it has positive economic consequences,” Lucas said. “By creating more demand for the recycled paper, we’ve gotten to the point where it’s no longer a budget problem to switch to the more sustainable product. That’s great news.”