The College is Making Printing Better

Comparison in change of college printing between 22-23 and 23-24 school year. Graph made by George Fang with data from ITS.

There’s no question that Swarthmore is unique. If you take your time to get to know any student on campus, you’re certain to discover a treasure trove of hidden talents—a popular, yet mostly anonymous, book reviewer with a trinket-selling side business; an athlete and sword-maker with clothing tailoring and mending skills; a dancer, actress, and producer with national acclaim in her home country. This uniqueness is something that makes Swarthmore, well, Swarthmore.

But there are also areas of uniqueness as an institution that set us apart in ways that raise eyebrows — well, if not yours, then at the very least, mine. Picture this: You’re tired, it’s the end of the day, you go to print that essay that you just wrote so you can turn it in tomorrow. After you finish fumbling around with your computer settings to set up the printer correctly, you notice that the printer is low on paper — because, as it turns out, someone printed their entire textbook out and left it behind.

If you’ve ever printed something on campus, you’ve probably noticed a stack of forgotten print-outs next to the printer. This is a problem whose causes are unique to Swarthmore; because of the small size of our institution there has never been an immediate need to modernize our printing methodology or reduce printing on campus. But with mounting concern from sustainability advocates in Information Technology Services (ITS) and the rather opportune need to replace old printers, ITS and the Office of Sustainability have collaborated under the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship (PSRF) to supercharge campus printing sustainability.

In 2018, PSRF Fellow Chloe Klaus ’19 began this journey with the Sustainable Printer Purchasing Policy by standardizing printer acquisition and placement for new printers across campus. This work has been instrumental in reducing unsustainable printer purchasing across campus, but it’s just the start of a much larger and ambitious sustainability overhaul by the college. As a 2023–24 President’s Sustainability Research Fellow, I’ve picked up the torch by identifying more solutions to problems in the college’s printing pipeline and supporting ITS’s rollout of a new swipe-release technology. 

Swipe-release is the next generation of printing, and as the name suggests, it involves swiping (tapping) your OneCard at the printer to release (print) what you sent to the printer. As a student, I will admit it takes a second to get used to the process, but swipe-release immediately offsets the difficulty with a whole host of benefits. In terms of privacy and security, swipe-release can be thought of as a “two-step verification,” whereby you prevent others from seeing or running off with sensitive information (e.g. Social Security Numbers, addresses, financial data) that has been printed out before you physically reach the printer. At the time of publication, the implementation of swipe-release across high-volume printers in the McCabe and Cornell libraries has reduced paper waste by 20%; by implementing this “two-step verification,” we’ve already saved 41,000 pages of paper, prevented 352.5 kg of CO2 emissions, and will continue to prevent the needless waste of paper and ink cartridges.

In future semesters, you can also look forward to more easy and convenient printing thanks to swipe-release. Swipe-release enables the possibility for many modern print conveniences like quickly printing from your phone, tablet, or laptop or using ANY printer on campus to release a print job, all without having to manually configure printer or network settings (known formally as follow-me and mobility printing).One thing that I’ve learned from my time here at Swarthmore is that there are always so many groups on campus interested and working to improve the college. If you’re interested in sustainability and project management, the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship is an excellent opportunity to focus on a sustainable interest across campus. This year, projects included a variety of interests: sustainable purchasing, the Crum Woods, food waste, lab waste, electric vehicle charging, McCabe’s Special Collections, travel emissions, and even a farm for Swarthmore. If entrepreneurship and innovation are more of your jam, the University Innovation Fellows is an international year-long program sponsored by Swarthmore’s Center for Innovation and Leadership and born out of Stanford University’s design school to hone your design thinking skills and use them to make a difference on your college’s campus. If engaged scholarship or local community development is your cup of tea, the ChesterSemester Fellowship provides a semester-long class followed by a semester-long internship opportunity to collaborate with a community partner in Chester, PA. These fellowships accept applications in the spring of each year for admission to the next year’s cohort; at the time of publication, all applications for next year’s cohorts will be closed, but keep these opportunities in mind if you find yourself curious to contribute. General information as well as contacts for the fellowships are readily available online.

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