Paperless semester

I work for a company that mainly does online training. However, we also do instructor lead training which requires making print-based guides for both the instructor and the students. Part of this production requires making proofs of the guides and also includes printing out multiple copies for editing purposes. I’m the one who ended up printing out most of those copies and I would say there were about 2,000 pages printed out in maybe two weeks. These annotated and note covered pages are now just sitting in piles under my desk. And, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to do something like that..

This seems like such a super waste of paper. Each copy was only used once and, like I mentioned, they now reside below my desk until they make their way to the recycling bin. And goodness, it makes me feel just dirty knowing that I printed most of it out–especially since paper makes up about 25% of landfill waste  and since 12,500 sheets make up one tree.

In my personal life, I prefer print over the screen. I love books, but can’t really read e-books. I love that professors provide articles in a digital format and love that the library has most of what I want available through the internet. But I still print out those articles. I’ve found that it is much different experience interacting with a page than it is interacting with a screen. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I feel like I learn better when I read print than I do when I read from a screen.

The Library Journal recently posted a quote from Jonathan Frazen about how he doesn’t like e-books and the like because you can’t maintain a kind of structural integrity of the work. Anyone can change the format of the work; anyone can change the content. This raises an important question over the reliability of the digital format… But, in my eyes, I feel that there are ways to protect that work (when I want to maintain the formatting of a digital document I just save it as a PDF) so it can be viewed as the author meant it to be viewed.

What I’m trying to get across in this post is that, to make up for that ungodly amount of paper that I feel like I wasted, I’m attempting to go paperless for this coming semester. This really means that I just won’t print out articles, but hopefully I’ll find some new ways to save some paper. So far I’ve invested in a tablet to take advantage of the more tactile aspects of the interaction; i.e., being able to draw on PDFs and take notes in a similar way that I would on a print version of the articles. Hopefully this will allow me to overcome that preference to interact with the print version of a document.

I’m also turning to Evernote to keep my notes in. No more notebooks that I rarely turn too after graduation–but rather “notebooks” that are saved to a cloud and will be much more readily accessible and searchable when I might need them.

I guess this is just an experiment for myself, that I’m sure many others have done before me. I’m really excited to see how it turns out and if I have made the right choice. I guess we’ll see in May, after I’ve given this attempt a fair shot!


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