How Printers are Innovating Sustainability at Nobles

Emilie Andrews, Staff Writer

October 20, 2023

In past years, printing at Nobles has been a drain of both paper and finances. When strolling through Computer Street or glancing over at the library printers, one would notice enormous reams of paper spilling onto the floor. While there is nothing particularly special about changing the printers this year, the old system was long in need of an update. Chief Technology Officer and Computer Science Department Chair Devareaux Brown described the Computer Science Department’s views on the former printing system, saying, “If you talk to anybody who works in [Information Systems and Support (ISS)], [they would say] it’s like a leak you have in your house that you put up with because you need water. But it’s never really efficient.”

Though the previous printing system lacked productivity, it offered the benefit of not necessitating new software installations for students or faculty. However, this often led to system malfunctions, which required time-consuming testing, as printing reliability varied across individual systems. In contrast, the new PaperCut software establishes a standardized system, streamlining troubleshooting. Senior Information Technology Support Specialist Jake Bonenfant said, “Before, I was pretty familiar with all the things that could possibly happen,” Bonenfant said. “Now that I’m learning what could possibly happen here, that list is much smaller.” The PaperCut technology is a long-term solution: once students and faculty have downloaded the software to their computers, they can print for the rest of their time at Nobles. While adjustments to the systems may emerge, the basis of the programming will stay the same.

The new PaperCut system also facilitates a quick and easy printing process. In the past, the printing to a particular printer required a physical presence or an unreliable online connection. Now, a print submitted into the system can be picked up at any school printer within 16 hours. If someone no longer wishes to complete the print, they can simply remove it from the queue. The 16-hour window also allows for prints to be ready promptly: if a student or faculty member wishes to print quickly before a class, they can send a job to the printer and have it prepared once they arrive.

(Photo Credit: Avery Winder)

The PaperCut system also introduces a semester-based budget for students that allocates $20.00 each for black-and-white printing and color printing. One black-and-white print “costs” $0.01, and one color print “costs” $0.10. Though the budgeting concept may seem daunting at first, it is intended to promote greater awareness among students regarding their printing habits and the number of prints they generate — no student is permitted to exceed 2,000 black-and-white prints and 200 color prints per semester, however, no student will be charged for exceeding the budget. “If you actually hit the 2000-page mark, we might need to have a conversation about what you’re doing,” Brown said.

Nonetheless, the budgeting numbers serve as a means to acknowledge the volume of prints being completed. Careless printing can significantly contribute to paper consumption at Nobles, and this additional reminder is an important step in reducing waste. Senior Information Technology Support Specialist Jake Bonenfant said, “It’s not something we’re trying to cast blame for. It’s just that this [new] system […] creates enough friction to prevent that kind of quick loss.”

The new printing system is just the beginning of a larger conversation about sustainability at Nobles. In the first month of school,  Brown has recorded the production of around 107,000 prints, consuming approximately eight trees’ worth of paper. Though the numbers are disheartening, they represent a positive change when compared to Brown’s approximation of 130,000 prints each month last year. Though teachers are not being actively encouraged to use online technologies, being aware of the waste created by printing allows our community to print more efficiently and sustainably.

ISS is hard at work to make this new system successful, and accessible for the Nobles community. As the software continues to be developed, new, exciting updates are expected to continue establishing a long-term printing system. However, until then, the community can expect Papercut to be a long-term solution for printing. Brown said, “What we are trying to do is streamline printing through Papercut’s management software. The system allows us to try to be more sustainable, as well as financially responsible for school.” While the new printing software has many new advantages, it can be challenging for many to install. Fortunately, Computer Street is always available to help, no appointment is needed.

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