Just How Much Paper Does McCabe Use?

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

A lot. The below chart tries to help you envision the sheer quantity.

Paper Usage


  1. 0
    AQ says:

    IMO, printing four pages to a page makes the text unsafely (and unpleasantly) small. I think paying for printing is a reasonable solution provided that the costs are recognized by professors and financial aid. In a sense, Blackboard readings are replacing purchased books, so it’d be reasonable for financial aid to pay for their “purchase” through printing. Professors would also have to become mindful of the printing cost and potentially assign less reading via Blackboard.

  2. 0
    Kate Carter says:

    Given the staggering difference between our numbers and theirs, I spoke with a librarian at Williams in search of a possible explanation. As it turns out, while Swarthmore delivers course materials primarily through Blackboard, Williams does not. Their librarian estimates that half of their professors still rely on course packs – a semesters worth of photocopied course readings that are purchased from a campus office.

    She noted that Williams recently displayed all print outs abandoned at the library during a semester, totaling over 60,000 pages. Given that a number of years ago analyses indicated that 80% of public printing on our campus took place in McCabe, one can only imagine how much paper here is wasted. Print management systems have been investigated a number of times in recent years to reduce this waste. We will continue to explore our options and to hope that a viable and equitable solution will become available.

    This morning, ITS and Library staff met to address many of the specific printing problems mentioned here. We’ve pinpointed why the PCs in the library are not defaulting to duplex printing, and the two groups will begin work today to correct this. We anticipate completion early next week. Additionally, ITS staff will check the settings on all public computers in the dorms, and ensure that they will print to the closest location by default.

    I encourage you to discuss any of your computing and printing concerns with an ITS staff member or a librarian, and assure you that we will wholeheartedly attend to them.

  3. 0
    Andrew Loh says:

    Exactly @Dustin!

    I’ve brought this (that the default printing settings for public computers are no longer duplex) up to the Public Area Consultants but I don’t know if anything has been done. This is probably the easiest way to significantly decrease the paper load.

    Also, I thought student council last year had this brilliant plan to replace all dorm printers with duplex printers. What happened to that?

  4. 0
    MB '07 says:

    At my current campus, we have a “printing release” system. You send something to print from any computer, and then have to go to a print station and log in and release the job for printing right next to the printer. It cuts down drastically on the amount of things that are printed and then never picked up. People still print too much, though.

    I usually print two pages of a journal pdf to a page, but blow up the text to 120%. It still fits and is much easier to read.

  5. 0
    Lucas Sanders says:

    ML does have a duplexing printer, though I don’t know how many residents configure their computers to print that way. Maybe about half.

    The bigger problem with printing in ML is that most of our cluster computers default to printing in Cornell, and reset to that default after every print job, so some people end up printing their things multiple times before they realize why it’s not printing where they expect.

  6. 0
    AV ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    DDamen, I definitely agree with you about the hypocrisy of Swatties when it comes to environmentalism. Printing is one place I definitely also fall into the cracks because I get a lot of reading and, well, print it all. I think everyone would be opposed to having to go around begging for points to do reading, but yesterday in seminar I saw someone who printed four pages (instead of two) on a page, which I feel at least is a good start to saving paper, especially if everyone started doing it…we’d just have to start spreading solutions like that around campus…

  7. 0
    Responses says:

    Great suggestion Rio.

    Neena, honors students cannot pass down their readings, and even many non honors students are nerdy enough to want to hold onto their readings for the future.

    DDamen, paper banks wouldn’t be fair. Different subjects require different amounts of printing.

    I think Swat could improve by setting the defaults to duplex or even to booklet form, and by adding more duplex printers (Shane? Wharton and Willets? ML?). And then we have to acknowledge that we probably do more reading than Williams students.

  8. 0
    DDamen says:


    I agree reading on the computer is not always viable but I’m not yet willing to admit there are no other helpful solutions.
    I remember one ex-swatty, who recently transferred to UChicago, pitched the idea of giving students paper “banks.” Crudely put, the network ascribes a certain quota to each subject (for example, 50 pages/week), and once they hit the max, they cannot print anymore paper.
    Because in reality, if you really needed to print something, you could easily just borrow “points” from other students. It would at the very least encourage students to watch paper use and send a strong message.
    Again, this was just one idea from one student. Perhaps this solution won’t work, and perhaps there really does not exist a solution except for plant more trees. All I’m saying is that silence won’t let us figure that out in any case.

  9. 0
    Dustin Trabert says:

    Something I don’t get is why the default print option on the new printers is no longer Duplex. Seems to me that that would be an easy fix.

  10. 0
    Rio says:

    Might I suggest something I just only recently discovered? In Adobe Reader 8 (as opposed to Adobe Acrobat Standard/Pro) there is the option for “booklet printing” which prints out pages so that you can just take it and fold it and have a book in your hands. It’s saved me a lot of hassle and I feel like the papers I print are worth saving! (Staple once in the middle by folding one side slightly in half).

  11. 0
    ASchwartz says:

    But how does Williams’ dorm printing output compare? Lots of people (myself included) use McCabe because of its duplex capacity, which cuts down on one’s personal paper use but increases the McCabe output.

  12. 0
    Nathan says:

    if we have that much reading to do, what would you suggest? Reading on the screen is simply not an option: it’s less comfortable, you can’t highlight it, and you can’t flip back and forth.

  13. 0
    LOL says:

    Williams students are too busy with their atheletics to do their blackboard readings.

    Swarthmore students are too busy with their blackboard readings to do their atheletics.

  14. 0
    Neena ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think more professors/students should pass down readings to the next set of students to take the course. Collecting the semester’s worth of reading after finals and re-issuing it to the next batch of students isn’t all that difficult and would really cut down on the waste

  15. 0
    DDamen says:

    Absolutely. About time someone said SOMETHING about how ridiculously overlooked the paper situation is.
    I feel like this school’s conscience can be so hypocritical. For another example, the energy used to power our bathrooms (showers every morning) is garnered from the lowest grade coal. Swarthmore buys that coal because its cheaper.

    And that’s fine, economic choices are not ethical, and business is often reality. But everyone please stop pumping self-esteem steroids into our common Swatty image – who does everything to help the environment.
    You just printed out 200 pages of blackboard reading foo! for one class!

  16. 0
    Lauren says:

    Another depressing fact: “recycled” doesn’t mean it didn’t come from trees. Only “post-consumer” content (which is labeled by the percentage) means the paper was made from other used paper. “Recycled” means it could be from virgin wood fiber, pre-consumer waste or post-consumer waste, but is most likely not a high percentage of post-consumer waste, as it would be labeled if that were the case.

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