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Letters to the Editor

Apathetic Printers


I chose to attend MIT in part because of the idealism, in all aspects of life, coming from the institution as a whole. When I got here, my choice was affirmed when I realized just how much research interest there is here in sustainable development and other environment-friendly issues. Two months into the semester, however, a disturbing question has settled into my mind. Why is it that the most brilliant and often the most motivated minds in the country can’t, or are unwilling to, live their daily life in a more environment-friendly manner?

Recycling bins are ubiquitous at MIT, yet Harvard still manages to have a recycling rate that is 6 percent higher than ours. A FIXIT form and two months later, my hall shower still barely turns off. As a result, people simply don’t shut off the shower all the way. Lights are left on while students are gone for hours at a time. Of course, it is possible that Harvard cheats on its recycling. And perhaps some MIT nerds simply don’t have the muscle to fight with a shower handle. But this does not explain the paper usage at our school.

I am not going to attempt to figure out how much paper the MIT community uses on a daily basis. Why then is it so hard to print double-sided? When a friend of mine contacted Information Services & Technology about this issue, they refused to change any settings, but merely suggested making a change to my .environment file that did not even work. When the same people automatically choose a printer for me through lpr, I cannot even do so manually. I do not expect IS&T to listen to one undergrad, but if more people showed their concern, perhaps the authorities would pay more attention.

Meanwhile, header pages continue to riddle the clusters (although it is possible to turn off printing header pages by simply typing “setup save” in Athena, very few people seem to actually do this). Perhaps the setup of the printers also contributes to all the print jobs that are never picked up and simply accumulate around the printers. SAVE installed boxes in all the clusters to collect some of this paper for reuse (who doesn’t want free problem set paper?), but they are not used. Even worse, the paper is often handled so roughly that it is folded and crumpled … leaving it unusable for all purposes but scrap paper. It does not require very much effort to at least try to print double-sided (simply add a “2” at the end of the printer’s name). Neither does it take very much effort to take some erroneously printed paper and put it nicely in a box. Surely MIT students can figure this out. Surely MIT students realize that attempting to change the printer setup can make a huge difference in the amount of paper MIT purchases and uses. But apparently, we just don’t care.

Alexandra G. Konings ’09