The reduction of paper use on campus has become a prominent issue in recent months. Representatives of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety, the City of Oberlin Recycling Program, Ohio Citizen Action and OPIRG met Thursday to develop recommendations to reduce the amount of waste generated on campus.
The three main issues discussed in the meeting were the elimination of wasteful all-campus mailings, a recent campaign to reduce junk mail received by students and reducing the amount of paper that is wasted in the computing center.
"The development of the Environmental Studies building has created a heightened awareness on campus for a need to address environmental issues on campus," Environmental Health and Safety Director Cheryl Wolfe said.
According to Wolfe, paper reduction on campus has been a top priority for her office since late last summer.
An effort to reduce junk mail was the most recent campaign coordinated by the City of Oberlin and students in the environmental studies department. Jeff Baumann, Recycling coordinator for the City of Oberlin provided stamped post cards addressed to various companies responsible for the distribution of junk mail. Students were able to fill these out to have their names removed from mailing lists.
"People were very excited to be able to cut down on their junk mail," Baumann said.
Sophomore Sadhu Johnston helped coordinate this project and was enthusiastic with the response it received.
According to Johnston, mailroom staff members were pleased with the reduction of unnecessary mail being sent, and they are beginning to work with the Oberlin Post Office to have an even greater reduction.
In addition to junk mail, Johnston said many students expressed concern for other wasteful practices on campus.
"What we heard from students is that we need to cut down on all-campus mailings. Students have been frustrated with the amount of waste generated," he said.
This task force on waste reduction feels that there are alternatives to all-campus mailings and event postings that would be more environmentally efficient.
Rather than put the same letter in each student's mailbox, or plaster the campus with hundreds of duplicate signs advertising events, students and staff should be able to go to one central location to exchange important information.
"What we need is one really good bulletin board that is properly maintained where people can walk by and get their information," Johnston said.
Richard Swirsky, North East Ohio Director of Citizen Action, received grant money to work with Oberlin and other regional colleges to address the issue of waste on campus. According to Swirsky, Kent State and John Carroll University are both using television monitors to disperse information as an alternative to using more paper.
Another viable idea was to make better use of Oberlin's online system.
"We do have other resources for information," Linda Iroff, a member of the computing center staff said.
"Oberlin Online has the places to put all types of information, but few students know about it and use it," she said.
While the computing center may become a solution to paper reduction, overuse of it by students has made it one department most in need of evaluation. Since free printing was made available at the beginning of this year, the amount of paper used has risen dramatically.
During the last day of reading period first semester, 14,000 sheets of paper were generated in that single day. To combat this problem this group is currently surveying which professors are willing to accept papers printed on double sided sheets.
"Most professors surveyed were excited and glad more and more students are doing it," Johnston, who helped in the survey, said.
During the mid-1980s numerous attempts were made to establish a recycling program on campus. The responsibility was eventually delegated to director of Custodial Services. Due to budget cut-backs, this position was eliminated last year, placing the responsibility under the department of Environmental Health and Safety.
Rather than contract out to a private recycling company such as BFI, the College decided to work with the City of Oberlin Recycling Program.
"Working so closely with the city on this recycling project has been invaluable," Wolfe said.
Baumann agrees that this program has helped build relations between the college and the town. "It has been a positive relationship of give and take," he said. "The program has helped open doors and broaden communication. We are in a better position than ever before."
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 18; March 28, 1997
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