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Illustration by Leila al Dzheref

Printing: To Cap or Not to Cap?

Exploring the possible need for measures put in place to manage students’ paper usage in a more conscious way.

Oct 5, 2019

The conversation around printing, caps, and paper waste on campus is not a new one. In light of recent events, global climate strikes and the upcoming No Waste November, the debate is being reiterated within NYU Abu Dhabi’s community. Questions are being raised about paper usage, waste management and a possible need for measures to be put into place to manage students’ paper usage in a more conscious way.
One reason that printing is common amongst students is that various classes at NYUAD have a strict “no electronics policy” outlined in syllabi, requiring students to print lengthy readings for classes. “It's everyone's responsibility to be environmentally friendly and sustainable, it's not something people should be opting in or opting out of. Some people care more than others but I think there's a minimum to be expected,” stated Tom Abi Samra, Class of 2021, who is co-president of Ecoherence.
Raunak Shrestha, vice president of Ecoherence, Student Government Sustainability Committee Chair and Class of 2020, is working to spread awareness of paper consumption issues on campus and is currently pursuing possible solutions on a student and administrative level. Shrestha speculates that these rules are common because learning has traditionally occured with papers and pens; a transition period takes time and dialogue to mediate.
“There aren't any policies that limit our printing currently, so everything is free and the resources are there to be utilized, but there's a lot of it being misutilised at the same time,” Shrestha stated. “In April 2019, one student printed 15,811 pages in one month, which costed around 632 AED and only in July 2018, one student printed 8,139 color pages in one month, costing the university around 1,790 AED.”
NYUAD is the only NYU campus with free printing for all of its community members. A 2019 study conducted by Hannah Melville Rea and Rastra Bhandari, both Class of 2019, found that NYUAD has been printing about five million pages every year since 2015, with an average of 11 liters of water needed to produce one A4 sheet, resulting in around 55 million liters of water wasted a year.
According to Shrestha, an effort on the administration’s part to be more sustainable has led them to source paper accredited by the Forest Stewardship Council in a contract lasting until June 20, 2021. The accreditation means that the paper lives up to the FSC’s standards for responsible forest management, but not that it is recycled.
Among the main points of the debate is that limiting paper usage by creating more limitations treats students as though they are unable to moderate their actions, hinting at a larger debate on self-regulation and the responsibility of the individual student versus the responsibility of institutions to regulate consumption.
One proposed solution is to distribute e-readers. NYUAD spends between an estimated 200 thousand and 1.1 million AED per year on average on printing, granted this is across all members of the community. Many students’ financial packages include funding for physical textbooks, which can cost up to several hundred AED, despite some being available as eBooks on the NYU Library online portal. Some argue that if the university provided students with e-readers instead, printing and readings-related costs including books, articles and PDF files would decrease significantly.
Tom Abi Samra shares some ways in which one could start advocating more responsible paper usage. “Having an honest conversation with a friend or professor or staff member about paper and paper consumption is effective. You'll always have people who oppose the transition or cutting on printing and in this case ... it's okay to compromise and print the readings.” Samra said. “You can print two pages on a page; for reading you can print on double sided, there are ways where you can do something [as] waste [efficiently] as possible.”
There are a variety of different approaches currently being discussed, but an apparent sentiment online, from Ecoherence and Student Government, is that changes to become more environmentally conscious are underway.
Jude Al Qubaisi is a staff writer. Email her at
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