Going to 100 Percent Post-Consumer Recycled Paper
To support her Hampshire College senior thesis, "The Effect of Post-Consumer Content on Paper Jamming and Malfunction in Printers and Convenience Copiers," science student and May graduate Vanessa Gravenstine field-tested her ideas using printers and copiers in campus offices. Working with offices that agreed to be part of her study, she distributed various brands and kinds of paper, then compiled and analyzed statistics related to their performance in campus machines for one month.
Her findings—which showed no overall difference in paper jamming, efficiency or cleanliness, and only minor cost differences if any—countered fears that 100 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper causes a higher rate of jamming and malfunction, is cost prohibitive and less clean to use. As a result, Hampshire (which currently uses 30 percent post-consumer waste recycled paper) has announced that it will purchase 100 percent post-consumer waste, 100 percent chlorine free recycled paper for general use in copiers and printers campus wide, effective July 1.
College officials say Gravenstine's research and leadership is a good example of student work having an impact beyond the classroom, with results that also fit well with the college's Sustainable Campus Plan. The project, with its emphasis on positive change, exemplifies the Hampshire motto: "To know is not enough."
"It is not often that a student—or any investigator—gets to see their research become policy so quickly, if at all," said Brian Schultz, associate professor of ecology and entomology, who chaired the faculty committee for Gravenstine's project.
In addition to conducting the research and writing the paper, Gravenstine also produced a set of educational materials that can be used on other campuses to address similar environmental issues, including a PowerPoint presentation and a comic book that provides analytical information in a fun format.
"Not only has Vanessa convinced Hampshire to change its purchasing policies, but the 'comic book' on recycled paper should be a very useful tool in organizing students and others to run similar campaigns at other institutions," said Robert Rakoff, professor of politics and environmental studies, who was also on Gravenstine's faculty committee. "This multidisciplinary, applied research project combined a well-designed experiment, analysis of the economic structure and environmental impacts of a major industry, and effective political action."
Gravenstine, who is from New York City, plans to attend graduate school in ecological studies and then work for a nonprofit. She graduates from Hampshire on May 17.