Put It On the Backside

Duplex printing should be mandated

Though Harvard makes bold and expensive steps toward greenness all the time, one of the simplest ways of being environmentally friendly is neglected. Instructors often print their exams and course handouts only on one side of the paper, effectively using twice as much paper as is necessary. Duplex printing can be easily done on almost any modern printer on the campus, and two-sided copying requires only slightly more effort than copying on one side. To ensure twice as much paper is not needlessly used at the hands of copiers who have little to lose from printing duplex, Harvard should mandate duplex printing.

In universities, where handouts and exams are distributed to scores of students at a time, the amount of wasted paper is immense. A typical six-page handout to a section of 30 students uses 180 sheets of paper when it could have used only 90. Multiply this by the number of courses that don’t use duplex, and thousands of sheets are wasted everyday.

Admittedly, it feels easier to print on one side because it is the default option on many printers at the College. No need to fiddle with the settings – simply click on “Print” and the task is done. But the 30 seconds saved from not clicking through a few windows are not worth the paper that is wasted as a result.

Any printer at Harvard is capable of duplex printing, and choosing to print one-sided on such a printer is simply a crime against the planet. Even if the printer does not have an automatic duplex printing feature, it most probably has a feature that replicates duplex printing. The process is completely automatized, and most people do not print in this way simply because they are not aware of the possibility. Two-sided copying, although seemingly a hassle at first, is easy after one figures out the mechanics of it.

An enforceable policy for a task as simple as duplex printing may seem like overkill. Reminders near printers and copy machines are the conventional way of encouraging printer-users to devote their 30 seconds for a greener planet, but there is only advantage to be gained and nothing to be lost through a mandatory policy.


Furthermore, the arguments against duplex printing are easily overcome. Some may argue that duplexed handouts are a hassle to read when stapled, but that problem can be resolved by simply stapling vertically, rather than diagonally. Others may prefer not to have ink on backsides because it slightly decreases readability, but this is not different from reading books.

Still, there exist others who do not want to print duplex simply because they do not want to. Though making them conform to a policy against their own wishes may seem to violate their rights to personal preference, this is not true because printouts and tests are not for the instructor’s personal use. Instructors should still be allowed to waste as much paper as they want to for their personal needs.

The policy would also not violate the students’ personal preferences because students are not currently asked whether they want to have their tests and handouts printed duplex. They receive both types of printing styles and they, if careless about the wasted backsides, are typically content with either. In fact, requiring one printing style might be convenient in that it would ensure consistency.

Granted, enforcing this policy might be problematic, but simple solutions like random checkups in classrooms, or student questionnaires could be employed to make sure policy violators do not go unnoticed.

Although any step toward more greenness is admirable, less ambitious and more traditional steps should also be remembered even as we build solar panels on our roofs and implement high-tech green projects in our classrooms.

Bilguun Ulammandakh ’14, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Mower Hall.