Eye of the Editors: Reducing paper waste through technology

Teachers should utilize technology in classrooms to minimize paper handouts.

For Diamond Bar High School students, what starts out as an empty binder at the beginning of the year will inevitably turn into a monstrosity stuffed with largely unused papers by the end of the year. The reason? Unnecessary printouts of material that can be accessed using technology. It’s the 21st Century: teachers should reduce their paper waste by incorporating more technology into classrooms.

Paper waste at school stems from the relative convenience of printing papers and the assumption that hard copies of materials will be easier for students to access. This leads to teachers printing stacks of papers on a weekly basis—whether it be poems for English classes that are only read once before being kept in a binder for the rest of the year, or packets of photocopied pages from a workbook. While some materials—such as vocabulary sheets or other frequently used information—are admittedly more convenient to access as printouts, nonessential materials only used a few times can be accessible online, and only contributes to the paper wasting problem.

First and foremost, some teachers’ excessive reliance on paper places unnecessary environmental burdens. Students in classes, especially courses heavy in reading materials like English, often receive printed reading packets that are only read once. The amount of paper wasted quickly adds up when you consider the amount of students in a class—or even several class periods—who all receive their own copy of the handout. An alternative solution would be for teachers to project the reading assignment on the projector screens, check out class computers or let students use phones.

Many teachers also shy away from technology because letting students use phones or computers inevitably seems to lead students off task. However, teachers can keep students accountable for completing their work by assigning reading check questions or supervising computer screens with programs that allow them to monitor the screen activity of students.

Additionally, excessive paper use becomes literal burdens that students have to shoulder every day. Although a packet or a worksheet may not seem like much when viewed individually, they start piling up in students’ binders or notebooks when teachers from multiple classes hand them out every week. Options like creating a class Google Drive folder for various classroom materials can also keep everything organized and help prevent students from losing important material.

Teachers can lessen this burden on students by cutting down on these packets and utilizing the technology available to them. Classes like AP European History taught by Emily Clark have succeeded in extensively incorporating technology into the classroom, whether it be regularly using computers for classroom assignments or digitizing assignments. The few students without access to technology at home can talk to the teacher for alternative options.

It’s understandable that not every teacher can manage to check out computers for classroom use every day of the week, but even just replacing a few days worth of heavy paper printouts with technology can make a substantial impact. Instead of solely considering the negative possibilities of technology in the classroom, teachers should realize the positive environmental and quality of life impacts that replacing paper waste with technology can bring.