The leaning tower of paper: easy ways to print less and help green the SSL

SSL staff with paper towerThis tower of paper, 2.19 metres tall, shows the amount of printing done on the Social Science Library’s five printer/copiers in October 2016.  That’s 21,752 sheets, in just one month.  If the tower hadn’t started to lean and we’d been able to add the paper used for photocopying, it would have reached 2.7 metres and consisted of 26,481 sheets.

We appreciate that printing and copying is essential for study and research but it is also one of the SSL’s main environmental impacts due to the consumption of paper, energy and ink (toner).  We have taken steps to reduce these impacts by using recycled paper, setting the printer/copiers to sleep after 10 minutes’ inactivity and recycling empty toner cartridges.  Printing from Reader PCs and PCAS RemotePrint is also double-sided by default.

Take a few seconds to think before you print – here are some easy things you can do to save paper, energy and ink, and spend less on printing and copying:

  • Do you need to print the document or could you read it on screen instead?
  • Are you printing a PDF in order to annotate it?  If so, have you considered annotating it on screen instead using the highlight and comment features in Adobe Reader?
  • Are you printing an article to keep for future reference?  You could save it to a USB memory stick or add a link to your reference manager instead.
  • Could you print two (or more) pages per sheet?  This will make the text smaller but if you can still read it this simple step will reduce your printing by 40%.  From the Reader PCs this option is accessed via the Print Properties then the Document Options tab.  See the PCAS guide on Printing from Library PCs.
  • Only print the pages, or selection, you need.  This is really quick and easy to do!
  • Fit more words on a page by narrowing the margins and using a smaller font.
  • Photocopy double-sided – use the PCAS Photocopying Instructions sheet next to each photocopier or ask staff to show you how.
  • Copy smart and avoid wasteful mistakes – refer to the PCAS guides, eg Copying different book sizes, or ask staff for advice.

Do you have any top tips for printing and copying less?  Email them to or talk to staff and we will share them with others.

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