Reducing Printing at Michigan Medicine

paper waste

Recently, Michigan Medicine switched to paperless After Visit Summaries (AVS). While this decision was made as a cost-saving effort, a positive side-effect is that this is going to save a lot of paper. Rough estimates indicate that this could reduce printing by up to 493,000 sheets of paper a year. What does reducing 493,000 sheets of paper really mean? The Environmental Paper Network’s (EPN) Paper Calculator can give us a fuller picture of the environmental savings: 

  • 58.9 trees 
  • 74.7 refrigerators worth of energy 
  • 4.01 cars worth of CO2e emissions
  • 52,600 gallons of water
  • 2,900 pounds of solid waste

There are ways that you, too, can save paper by reducing your own personal printing. If you decrease your printing by just one ream of paper a year (500 sheets), you can save 44.8 lbs of CO2e emissions, 53.5 gallons of water, and 2.9 lbs of solid waste.


Whenever possible, take notes on your computer, and share PDF or other files digitally. For documents that need signatures, take advantage of the University of Michigan’s free access for all students to Adobe Creative Cloud and create yourself an e-signature. For student leaders organizing fall recruiting efforts for groups and clubs, think of alternatives to the traditional “quarter sheet.” You can use digital sign-up options such as Google Docs or Google Forms to record contact information for new members. As an added bonus, this makes it so you will not have to decipher anyone’s handwriting! Also, rather than printing flyers and hanging them around campus, promote events through options such as SORC digital signs, U-M Libraries digital signs, or social media platforms. 


Highlight opportunities and resources for your students to rent books, purchase used book, or choose e-books rather than buying them new. Use Canvas to post your syllabi online and to post your slides and lecture outlines. If you must print something, print double-sided. 


Highlight this success story for Michigan Medicine during an all-staff meeting or a meeting of your Sustainable Workplace green team, and ask others in your program or department if there are ways your office could save paper too. Some of the efforts various U-M offices have had success with include:

  • Setting up a place in the office to collect scratch paper (pages with at least one remaining blank side).
  • Setting up printers to only “accept” print jobs in person. 
  • Hosting paperless staff meetings, with agendas shared electronically rather than printed. 
  • Purchasing paper with post-consumer recycled content.

Once you identify a few ways to reduce printing, be sure to track your purchasing before and after any changes, and then use the EPN Paper Calculator to report back to the group on your savings.

Want to learn more? The EPN provides several other resources. The Global Paper Vision highlights the EPN’s collective goals for transforming the way in which paper is produced and consumed. The Paper Steps explains more about the criteria to consider when purchasing responsible paper.

Now we’d like to hear from you! As a Planet Blue Ambassador what have you done to reduce your paper use or inspire others? What tools and resources have been most helpful that you’d like to share with others? And, what barriers are you still trying to overcome?