Where Does the Imprint Go?

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ERS 285 , Greening the Campus, is a course designed for Environment and Resource Studies students to apply their knowledge on the campus. Under the supervision of WATgreen, a waste management team for the University of Waterloo (UW), our group undertook a study of the UW student newspaper, the Imprint. We studied the newspaper in terms of its distribution and disposal methods.


The purpose of the study was to increase the level of sustainability on the UW campus. Sustainability implies using resources to meet the needs of the present generation without reducing the ability of future generations to meet those same needs. Sustainability on campus is extremely important to maintain and enhance not only the natural environment but the quality of life as well. This state can only be achieved one step at a time. Therefore, our group decided to begin with the Imprint newspaper.

The goal of this study was to determine the sustainability level of the Imprint newspaper system. To achieve this goal, we needed to fulfill four objectives: (1) identify the life cycle of the Imprint, (2) determine the quantity of Imprints generated, distributed, and remaining unused (3) determine disposal methods, and (4) recommend alternatives. These objectives were used to evaluate the Imprint system in terms of its sustainability. To evaluate the system, we identified four criteria which in our opinion represent a sustainable system:

Our first priority was to determine the life cycle of the Imprint. We found that it included paper production, information production, printing, distribution, and disposal. Due to time constraints, we limited the focus of our study to the two final stages of the Imprint life cycle, distribution and disposal. As well, we could only apply the first two criteria for sustainability in detail.

We wished to determine the quantity of Imprints produced, distributed and remaining unused. In total, 12 000 copies of the Imprint are printed each week to be distributed both on- and off-campus.

Distribution numbers totaled 7 000 Imprint copies to most buildings on-campus and 1 200 to many off-campus locations. These numbers added up to 8 200 copies. A simple calculation showed that from the 12 000 copies printed, 3 800 remained undistributed. These numbers were determined by means of a diligent data collection process.

In addition, we determined disposal methods of people having various associations to the Imprint on campus. We administered surveys to students to determine their reading and disposal habits of the Imprint. We conducted interviews with custodial staff to determine how they dispose of the Imprint.

We limited the scope of our study to boundaries encompassing four buildings on the UW campus: the Campus Centre, the Engineering Lecture Hall, the Graduate House and the Village 1 residence. In these four buildings, we determined the number of Imprints which were delivered each week. We then followed an established counting process to determine how many copies were left unused each week over a three week period. The surveys were also conducted within these buildings.

From the results of our data collection, we discovered that, on average, the Campus Centre and the Graduate House experienced high numbers of unused Imprints while Village 1 and the Engineering Lecture Hall had relatively few left over. These results indicated that the number of copies distributed to buildings did not reflect the amount read. We determined that various results of the survey, we learned that almost half of those surveyed read an already used copy of the Imprint and that the majority of people read it at least twice a month. These trends indicated that the distribution numbers could be reduced without affecting the level of readership. The Imprint system failed to meet the second criterion for sustainability, reduction of waste at source.

We also discovered from the survey that most people possess sustainable disposal practices; they either left their copy of the Imprint behind or recycled it. On the other hand, we discovered that custodial staff most often discarded Imprints in the garbage. Even though the students' disposal practices were sustainable, those of custodial staff were not. Therefore, the Imprint system did not meet our first criterion of sustainability, proximity to a closed loop system. We made an in-depth analysis of the results according to our criteria for sustainability in our discussion.

By analyzing the data collected, our group made recommendations to the Imprint office to help increase their level of sustainability. These recommendations stressed reduction of waste at source and encouraged reuse or recycling of the paper in order to mimic closed loop system.

After investigating the Imprint system, we came to the conclusion that its level of sustainability was low since it did not adequately meet our criteria for sustainability. To remedy this problem, the Imprint system must be improved. Adherence to our suggested recommendations will result in improvements towards sustainability.


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Last Updated April 12, 1995.