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A green paper trail

In recent years, the amount of paper used for copiers and printers at UMass Chan Medical School has topped 30 million sheets a year. Stacked on top of each other, all that paper would tower above New Hampshire’s Mount Washington. But that tower is shrinking, and it’s growing greener.

According to statistics tracked by the UMass Chan Purchasing Department, the amount of paper used by the Medical School actually dropped in fiscal year 2010, and of the paper used, significantly more of it was made from recycled content.

In fiscal year 2009, the Medical School purchased 7,224 case of paper, of which 913 cases or 13 percent were made with recycled content. In fiscal year 2010, the total amount of paper bought dropped to 7,096 cases, with 1,903 or 27 percent of the total being recycled paper. The year before, only 4 percent of the paper purchased contained recycled content.

“We’re happy with the trend, and we certainly hope that it continues,” said Jeff DiCiaccio, senior director of purchasing.

DiCiaccio believes there are multiple reasons for the shift in paper usage. It’s likely, he said, that more people are “duplexing,” which means printing documents on both sides of a sheet of paper, not just one side. Also, people may be thinking twice before printing or copying documents, asking themselves if they truly need hard copies, thereby cutting down on the amount of paper used. These messages have been part of ongoing communications across the campus over the past two years, urging people to think about their use of paper and other resources.

“I think people are more aware of our efforts to become greener as an institution, and they are responding,” said DiCiaccio, who is also a member of the school’s Sustainability Committee.

Melissa Lucas, manager of sustainability and energy efficiency, applauded members of the campus community for their changes in behavior. The dramatic growth in the use of recycled paper is particularly meaningful, she said, because it costs a bit more than so-called virgin paper, which is made from fresh wood pulp.

“In times of tight budgets, buying recycled paper and taking affirmative steps to reduce usage shows a very thoughtful commitment to our goal of reducing our environmental impact,” Lucas said. “This is a great trend, and I want to thank everyone who is taking action in their daily activity to support it.”

DiCiaccio agreed, noting that “as the demand for paper made from recycled content goes up, the cost will eventually become less expensive than virgin paper.”