Saving paper with electronic forms

Trees breathe carbon--pitch in and use e-documents!

St. Louis Community College is a large district–4 campuses and 3 education centers, employing 3868 full and part-time people.  As in all businesses, keeping track of hiring, on-going workload changes, requests for travel and purchasing requires a trail for transparency and accountability.  Up until now, this accounting has been done by paper.  And not just single sheets–but multiple page forms.  I’m not a fan of filling out forms.  I hate how hard I have to press to get any information to the 5th copy–what a waste–in time and materials!

The college is on a paper reduction mission, thanks to Vice Chancellor of Business and Finance, Carla Chance.  We measured our paper consumption for 6 months to see just where our biggest usage was.  Once the sources were identified, strategies were put into effect like new “smart” copiers that not only copy both sides (duplex), but are energy-efficient to boot.  We also have software that will help direct print jobs in the most paper-efficient manner.  For example, the softward routes large jobs to the copy center where the cost is significantly less than printing that job to a desktop printer (the difference being .02 at the copy center compared to .15 at the desktop).  Many desktops cannot print duplex, so they eat up paper (not to mention toner that is more expensive).

Human Resources now uses software called PeopleAdmin.  In one estimate, that software has saved the district 617,000 sheets of paper generated by 12,443 application materials for FY 2009. Each application was estimated to average 10 sheets per application with copies going to an average of 5 people on a committee. I calculated not using paper applications would annually save 56 trees, 15,947 lbs CO2, 5,248 lbs of solid waste and 57,861 gallons required to make the paper (Paper Calculator from Environmental Defense Organization).

So what excites me the most is one elf at the Florissant Valley Campus has been working away at her e-doc workshop creating excellent replacements for tracking requests without paper!  Vicki Lucido has even offered to share and adapt the forms so they have a district logo.  I want to know how we can get those forms out to the other campuses?  The college keeps stressing we are ONE college, not 4 separate campuses. If one campus has a great idea, why can’t all share?  It is time we stop wasting paper and time, not to mention developing carpal tunnel, and move forward to the electronic age!  No one’s job will disappear–sorting still has to happen–it just will be electrons moving through space.  Yes, there is still an energy footprint from computers, but the forests will stand and continue to drink up the carbon that is created in paper and electronic production.

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