March 19th, 2012

Incorporating Sustainability into the Curriculum: The Case of Green Course Projects at a Pacific Island American University

By Yukiko Inoue

CASE STUDY

Graduate students enrolled in an education research course in Guam that the author taught during the spring 2010 semester participated in this “green” course project. Those students who were not school teachers, who worked for private companies or government agencies, focused their projects on green communities, workplaces, or households. Students conducted their projects based on inquiry-based learning, and this sustainability study reported in the current paper itself derives from an inquiry-based approach. The results from this study demonstrated that daily curricular activities at universities and schools provide an important way to support environmentally responsible living. Implementing green course projects similar to the one described here is one of many ways in which university teachers can incorporate “sustainability” into their curricula.

We began as a mineral. We emerged into plant life and into the animal state, and then

 into being human, and always we have forgotten our former states, except

in early spring when we slightly recall being green again.

–Rumi

Introduction

Almost daily reminders of vanishing polar ice caps, rising sea levels, and horrific weather patterns give us every reason to wonder if we are doing enough to assure a sustainable future on this planet (Johnston, 2009). Sustainability “represents an interconnectedness of factors and force —environmental, economic, and social—that require new and more sophisticated analyses, teachings, and interventions” (Timpson et al., 2006, p. 9.). And yet, sustainability “requires integrating the knowledge base of individual disciplines to create a holistic program that brings together the economic, social, and environmental understanding, practices, and policies of a globally and environmentally connected world” (Berry, 2006, p. 103).

“Safeguarding the environment ranks high on political and social surveys” (Marschall, 2006, p. 12); nevertheless, “a yawning gap exists between good intentions and reality. Although Americans express strong support for reducing air and ground pollution, few give up their cars or recycle their AA batteries instead of throwing them in the trash” (p. 12). In terms of changing habits and thinking green, the following passage by Joachim Marschall, a psychology student and freelance science writer in Germany, is intriguing as well as worth reading:

The theory of planned behavior assumes that we carefully consider pros and cons, which may be true in novel situations such as moving to a new city. . . .The decision to leave the lights on as we walk out of a room or to check the recycling symbol on a plastic container instead of just throwing it away may rarely involve conscious consideration. (p. 13)

“The most important role of universities,” according to Joyce Berry (2009), the Dean of Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, “is to provide the programmatic leadership that will educate tomorrow’s environmental leaders. . . .Only by teaching sustainability as a broad-based, and outward-focused leadership endeavor will we be able to attain our ultimate goal of a better, more sustainable, and just world” (p. 104). “All parts of the university are critical in helping to create transformative change in the individual and collective mindset. Everything that happens at a university and every impact, positive and negative, of university activities shapes the knowledge, skills, and values of the students” (Cortese, 2006, p. xi). In order to achieve the educational experience in which all students are aligned with the principles of sustainability, Anthony Cortese, the president of Second Nature, wrote:

Higher education will form partnership with local and regional communities to help make them healthy, socially vibrant, economically secure, and environmentally sustainable as an integral part of higher education’s mission and the student experience. . . . If higher education does not lead the sustainability effort in society, who will? (p. xiv)

“If higher education does not . . . who will?” It is such a strong message! Timpson et al. (2006) support Cortese’s point: “The university is a microcosm of the larger community. . . its daily activities are an important demonstration of ways to achieve environmentally responsible living and to reinforce desired values and behaviors in the whole community. These activities provide unparalleled opportunities for teaching, research, and learning” (p. xiv).

 

Background

In 2008, the University of Guam announced its Green Initiative. The Initiative will take place at three levels. The first level involves education to promote habit changes among students, faculty, and staff, in the direction of greener campus life. The second level provides opportunities for the University and its surrounding community actively to engage in responsible management of resources and waste products through the procurement of locally produced and recycled goods, and the disposal of goods through recycling. The third level engages the local community, private, and governmental organizations in obtaining resources for the development of alternative energy systems that are the best fit for the environment of Guam and Micronesia.

Tim Beatley (2009), a professor of sustainable communities, notes: “The curriculum to follow challenges students to overcome the passivity of our times and it gives them the knowledge and tools to become the kinds of ‘ecological’ citizens we need more than ever today. I am looking forward to seeing in my lifetime the changing awareness. . .” (p. xiv). As a faculty member, I feel the same way, and look forward to seeing the changing awareness among students. Beatley’s words provided me with motivation to conduct this study. I asked myself the following: “How can I incorporate sustainable practices into teaching about sustainability?”

 

Inquiry-Based Learning Approach

“An old adage states: Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand. The last part of this statement is the essence of inquire-based learning. . . . Inquiry implies involvement that leads to understanding” (Educational Broadcasting Corporation, 2004, p. 1). Students probably learn best by doing; and, students themselves are responsible for their own learning. Lim (2004) defined the inquiry-based learning process, which involves: asking (articulating problems); planning (designing strategies within a certain time frame); exploring (exploring resources for solving problems); constructing (synthesizing resources and providing solutions); and reflecting (discussing the implications for further enhancement).

This sustainability study was carried out based on these five stages: STAGE 1: Through a review of the literature and personal communications, approaches to be used in the current study were identified; STAGE 2: A ‘green lesson’ project was added as one of the course assignments. The course syllabus articulated the content of this project, emphasizing the 3Rs (reduce whenever possible, reuse as often as possible, and recycle as much as possible); STAGE 3: Promoting awareness among students regarding environmental issues and the sustainability ethic, the project was explained on the first day of class; STAGE 4: The project consisted of a lesson plan (based on the subject the participants were teaching), and an actual report (how the 3Rs were adopted in the subject); and STAGE 5: This stage allowed me to analyze this study, answering two questions: “What knowledge have I gained in incorporating sustainability into the curriculum?” And “how does it benefit students, teachers, the University, and the community?”

 

Case Description

In an inquiry-based research design for this study, participants were graduate students in an introductory research course that I taught in the spring 2010 semester. They developed a green lesson plan, focusing on the 3Rs, conducted the lesson, and then reported the actual lesson.

 

STAGE 1: December 2009 – January 2010

In STAGE 1, I developed the format to be used in a green lesson plan, and the format of an actual lesson report, for students. By reviewing the literature and related readings, I enhanced my understanding of sustainable higher education activities, which eventually would facilitate my students’ experiences in the course. Sustainability is a complex concept, one of many that “defy easy definition or simple response, yet demand attention for our collective well-being” (Timpson et al., 2006, p. xv). I realized that educating and raising awareness among students may become the “first” step of my sustainability study, which might be a journey of one thousand miles.

 

STAGE 2: January – February, 2010

Green Lesson Plan

Emphasizing the 3Rs, the format of a lesson plan, below, was outlined for students. Students, who were not school teachers, focused their projects on green workplaces or green communities.

Develop a lesson plan applying the 3Rs to your teaching. If you are not teaching, think about anything you can do to apply the 3Rs at work or in the community.

  1. Subject (content area, level, and so on.)
  2. Objectives (objectives are drawn from the broader aims of the unit plan but are achieved over a well defined time period. What will students be able to do during this lesson?)
  3. Materials/Media (a complete list of materials, including full citations of textbooks or story books used, worksheets, and any other special considerations are most useful.)
  4. Lesson Description (this section provides an overview of the lesson in terms of topic focus, activities, and purpose. What is unique about this lesson?)
  5. Lesson Procedure (this section is divided into introduction, main activity, and closure.)
  6. Assessment/Evaluation (you need to gather some evidence that students really participated in the project. How will you evaluate the objectives that were identified?)

 

A sample lesson plan, below, was by Student A. At the beginning of the semester, students were asked to fill out a student information form, including an item asking their future goals.

Student A wrote: “Professionally, I want to be a business professor someday.  Personally, I want fulfillment in life and to experience the real meaning of happiness.”

 

STUDENT SAMPLE

  1. Subject: Business Elective/Career Exploration; Grade 10 (30 students)
  2. Learning Objectives: Students will learn: why the world of work is changing; why every job requires job-specific and transferable skills; the importance of product innovation through recycling, reducing, and reusing; and how to make better decisions.
  3. Materials/Media: Local newspapers, magazines, and dictionaries of occupational titles; resources or media will be helpful in students’ career decision-making.

4     & 5.   Lesson Description and Procedures:

Day 1: Discussion: The World of Work (PowerPoint slides). On the first day, students will understand the chapter lesson through discussion. They will review examples of successful products that involve the 3Rs, through PowerPoint presentations.

Day 2-5: Group project: Students will be in groups of 4-5. Each group will choose a company that exists in Guam and choose a leader; the leader will delegate tasks to the members and will report to inform the teacher about the status of the group work.

Day 6: Group project presentation: All of the members in each group are required to present, and each group must submit its final written answers to the given questions.

Day 7: Journal: Discuss the importance of the 3Rs in the world of work. Students will summarize their group work—thus strategies they have created for their chosen company.

  1. Assessment/Evaluation: Their progress will be reviewed through discussions, journals, and presentations to evaluate their understanding of environmental issues.

 

In STAGE 2, my students fulfilled three important goals. First, they defined sustainability in their own words. Certainly sustainability means different things for different students. And yet, the following definition by a student may be representative: “Environmental sustainability is what we must continuously support in our surroundings, so that we can prevent issues in the future and to maintain our living today.” Second, they completed a questionnaire (note that the questionnaire results were not included here) revealing that they are highly motivated to practice sustainability in the workplace. Third, although only one sample lesson plan was included here, each of the 18 students enrolled in the course developed his or her project plan.

 

STAGE 3: March – April, 2010

Midpoint Project Assessment

Students wrote their progress reports based on six questions. Their progress was monitored with reviews of their written reports. The following is a progress report by Student B.

 

STUDENT SAMPLE

1.   Describe the goal of your project. The goal is to have high school students understand the environmental effects of littering and to take part in reducing litter. They will implement an anti-litter campaign and will encourage others to dispose of their litter properly.

2.  What steps have been taken to meet the goals of the project? Students are mid-way through the project and have discussed the effects of littering. An initial survey has been conducted. They will conduct another survey and compare the results from two surveys.   

3.   What part of the project do you like the most? What I enjoy most is having students create posters and flyers for the anti-litter campaign. This part of the project requires students to think critically in order to convey a message that will impact others’ behaviors.

4.   What part of the project do you like the least? What I like least is that it focuses only on waste reduction. The project could incorporate the 3Rs. The lesson can cover methods to effectively reduce waste, and learning more about recycling or reusing items.

5.   How does the project relate to environmental issues or sustainability education? It helps students promote behavior in support of a sustainable living. By creating an anti-litter campaign, they will develop an appreciation for the environment and natural resources.

6.   Is your project successful so far? How do you know? Yes. I have seen students make an effort to dispose of their litter properly, encouraging other students to do the same.

 

In STAGE 3, my students participated in several activities, including the following. First, they worked on their midpoint project self-assessment. At this stage, two students dropped the course, but all of the remaining 16 students assessed the development, rate of progress, and final products of their projects based on their project goals. Second, they conducted one green interview. Their interviews revealed that many people are now seriously thinking about sustainable living: for example, by educating people on green behavior; by disposing of waste properly; by driving a car only minimally; and by reducing power consumption.

 

STAGE 4: May 2010

Good classroom teachers use project-based learning as a supplement to their regular course of instruction (Kraft, 2005). Project-based learning and inquiry-based learning are related, in terms of searching for answers to the problems: students make decisions within a prescribed framework, design the process for reaching a solution, are responsible for accessing and managing the information they gather, and regularly reflect on what they are doing. Kraft adds: “Inquiry in education should be about a greater understanding of the world in which they live, learn, communicate, and work” (p. 7). Student projects in this course provide an example of such understanding. Students completed their final reports based on the format given below.

Your final report must be written based on the format below.

  1. Your name
  2. Your occupation
  3. Project title
  4. Abstract (your project summary, 100-120 words)
  5. Purpose (and research questions if any) of the project (including background of the project, and particularly why you were interested in the topic of your project)
  6. Brief review of the literature (using, at least, 5-7 references)
  7. Method (including the project procedures, that is, how you conducted your project)
  8. Results (you can crate tables or figures here, or you can summarize people’s opinions or behaviors if you conducted interviews or observations)
  9. Discussion (implications of the results or findings)
  10. Conclusion (including what you have learned through your project)

 

Final Reports

STAGE 4 is the highlight of the five stages. Two final projects (edited for brevity and condensed) by Student B and Student C were included here (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B). In this stage, my students fulfilled an important goal: writing a final project report. They worked on different topics but shared the same question: “How can we make a difference for the environment through education?”  Inquiry-based learning—which is rooted in the scientific method of investigating phenomena in a structured and methodical manner—makes use of this research framework: problem statement, data collection, data analysis, and conclusion.

 

STAGE 5: May –June 2010

My students were encouraged to reflect. Their reflections served as a way to retrace the steps that led to their conclusions. Reflection also allowed me to analyze my experiences to modify past knowledge based on new knowledge of green issues and research methods. I would like to reflect upon this sustainability study by answering each of my own questions below.

  1. 1.      What was the goal of my sustainability study?

Incorporating sustainability into the curriculum of a graduate research course, the goal of my study was to guide students toward completion of one green project during the semester.

  1. 2.      How did I select the study?

Going green is everyone’s business today. I hoped that if I could become a positive influence on my graduate students, they in turn could become a positive influence on their students, by demonstrating the 3Rs as they integrating sustainability into teaching.

  1. 3.      Where did I find my resources?

Through the literature review, I came up an idea of developing green lessons that school teachers can adopt and use to demonstrate environmental principles in their classrooms. Personal communication with my colleagues also helped me to keep this study going.

  1. 4.      Who was my audience?

The audience is not limited to the educational community given that it goes beyond a discussion of integrating sustainability into the curriculum. The goal of this study is to appeal to sorts of individuals with a strong interest in environmental issues and green communities.

STAGE 5 focused on reflection, which is an important component for improving future study on similar projects. Reflection further serves to reinforce the method, so that students can repeat the process in any problem-solving situation. They indicated two types of opinions in reflections on their completed projects. One is that by enhancing their knowledge of environmental issues and a sustainability ethic, they have realized that teaching sustainability is their own task as teachers, educators, and community members. The other is that they have learned the research process, so they can apply the skills of research methodology to future assignments in any courses when they promote inquiry- or project-based learning. This study was tempered with creative thinking and innovative approaches. I hoped that such a combination could maintain or increase motivation, and stimulate creativity in students’ projects. Teaching gives direction and purpose to our research endeavors while simultaneously, research ensures that our teaching is continuously updated and improved. Accordingly, teaching this assignment and guiding students’ projects also gave direction and purpose to my research endeavors.

Conclusion

There are seven steps toward sustainability identified by James and Lahti(cited in Hembd & Silberstein, 2011). The first step is finding the fire souls, which are community citizens who have a burning interest in sustainable development. In this study, ‘fire souls’ were graduate students in this course. The second step is raising awareness. I created with students a common understanding of what sustainability means, and assigned them to design their projects based on guided steps, and to implement their projects. The third step involves official endorsement of sustainability operating principles. This study was supported by the University’s Green Initiative. The fourth step involves the implementers. Student projects were monitored through the progress reports, class discussions, and personal electronic and oral communications. The fifth step applies the sustainability framework. Students in the course realized that the behavior of their K-12 students or their coworkers can be changed by implementing the process with a shared “sustainability” language. The sixth step involves whole plan endorsement. Under the proper leadership, students are able to participate in sustainable lessons or other activities and trust the same rules. The seventh step keeps it going. We all work together continuously toward the 3Rs.

I established two questions at the beginning of this sustainability work. The first question was: “What knowledge have I gained in incorporating sustainability into the curriculum?”  The answers include: I have learned that teaching for sustainability is an ongoing business, and probably there is no ending as long as people live on this planet. It is viewed that one important role of universities is to provide leadership that will educate tomorrow’s environmental leaders to bring together the economic, social, and environmental understanding. The second question was: “How does it benefit students, teachers, and the community?”  The answers include: Results from this study will be presented at a suitable forum. This will be done with a view to seeking guidance on the future direction of the work from persons with valued interest and expertise in the field. Missions of universities focus on teaching, research, and community service. This study involved all three of these missions—and thus, students, teachers, and the community will benefit from learning the results of this application of green principles to coursework.

 

Author Notes

This sustainability work was supported by a Going Green grand from the University of Guam. The author bears full responsibility for all conclusions reported in the current paper, including those drawn from student projects. Graduate students’ projects were included with permission.

 

References

American Psychological Association. (2009). Publication manual. Washington, DC: Author.

Beatley, T. (2009). Introduction: From hope to practice, or educating for Eden. In H. Wiland & D. Bell, Going to green (pp. xiii-xiv). White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Berry, J. (2006). Forward by Joyce Berry. In W. M. Timpson et al., 147 practical tips for teaching sustainability (pp. 103-104). Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.

Cortese, A. (2006). Forward by Anthony Cortese. In W. M. Timpson et al., 147 practical tips for teaching sustainability (pp. xi-xiv). Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.

Educational Broadcasting Corporation. (2004). Concept to classroom. Retrieved April 15, 2010, from http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/concept2class/inquiry/index.html

Hembd, J., & Silberstein, J. (2011). Sustainable communities. In J. W. Robinson & G. P. Green (Eds.), Introduction to community development (pp. 261-277). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Johnston, H. J. (2009). Research brief: “Green” school programs. Retrieved September 23, 2009, from http://www.pincipalspartnership.com

Kraft, N. (2005). Criteria for authentic project-based learning. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from heep://www.rmcdenver.com/useguide/pbl.htm

Lim, B-R. (2004). Challenges and issues in designing inquiry on the Web. British Educational Communications and Technology, 35(5), 627-643.

Marschall, J. (2006, April/May). Thinking green. Scientific American Mind (pp. 12-13).

Rumi (Jelaluddin). (2005). The essential Rumi (C. Barks, Trsns.).New York: HarperCollins.

Timpson, W. M., et al. (2006). 147 practical tips for teaching sustainability: Connecting the environment, the economy, and society. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibit A

A Report by a Secondary Education Teacher

 

Reducing Litter on School Campuses

 

Purpose

By promoting the concept of “going green” in our schools and the importance of the 3Rs, teachers can develop positive behaviors and attitudes in students that will contribute to the preservation of the earth. The purpose of this project was to examine the effects of an anti-litter campaign on the amount of litter present on a school campus.

 

Literature Review

Litter is aesthetically unpleasant and has detrimental effects on the environment. Littering is not only harmful to people and animals but also causes damage to our waterways and costs money to clean up: 94% of people consider littering to be a major environmental problem (“Litter,” 2003). Tackling the issue of littering should begin with education. Teachers can educate students about the effects of littering and the various ways to prevent and reduce it.

Hatch Elementary School in Chicago is just one of many schools that teach students and parents about zero-waste concepts. The School has set up a composting station for uneaten food scraps and has placed trash bins around the campus for recyclable/non-recyclable items. The School is working towards purchasing reusable items for students to use for lunch (e.g., reusable trays and silverware). In line with the School’s efforts, the teachers have learned to tie the zero-waste concept into science and environmental lessons (“Students Save,” 2010).

In Long Beach, California, over 70 public and private schools have green programs that incorporate recycling and litter reduction into the classrooms. These schools’ efforts have helped to lower the city’s total amount of waste and divert 69% of material from the waste stream to recycling and conservation programs. Because the district requires environmental education to be incorporated into the curriculum at all grade levels, the city’s Environmental Services Bureau provides schoolteachers with recycling bins. Parents and teachers have grouped together to create their own recycling and litter reduction programs in an effort to reach out to the community (Peters, 2010).

Implementing a “green” program would be extremely beneficial for our schools in Guam and should be a goal that educators work towards. Instead of waiting for such a program to be implemented, teachers can begin taking smaller steps to educate students on environmental issues and the importance of going green. Like the teachers at Hatch Elementary School, teachers in Guam can tie environmental concepts into their lessons and have students participate in activities that promote environmental awareness. Such lessons can include teaching students to turn rubbish into a resource by recycling and reusing items. Teachers can also educate students about the negative effects of litter and have them implement an anti-litter campaign on campus (“Curriculum & Lesson Plans,” n. d.).

 

Method

Forty-five students at Simon Sanchez High School volunteered to participate in this project. All participants were students (from grades 9 through 12) in a fine arts class. For this project, the following materials were used: a chalkboard and chalk, paper, pen/pencil, trash bags, gloves, poster boards, markers, glue, scissors, and glitter. The project began by asking the students to define “littering.” After receiving several responses, the students were led in a discussion on the reasons people litter and the effects of littering. Following the discussion, students were divided into small groups (nine groups of five). One person in each group was chosen to be the recorder; the rest of the group members would be responsible for collecting litter around the campus and reporting the type of litter collected to the recorder. The recorder needed a pen or pencil and a sheet of paper to keep a log of the type of litter (e.g., plastic, paper, and aluminum) and the amount collected. The students were given trash bags and gloves and were led around the campus. They were given approximately 25 minutes to collect trash. After collecting litter, each group presented their findings to the class and the data was recorded. Then students participated in developing an anti-litter campaign. Each group was given two poster boards, markers, scissors, glue, and glitter. On each poster board students presented a message that emphasized the importance of proper litter disposal. Students placed the posters all around the school campus. After three weeks, the litter collection activity was repeated. Students were in the same groups and were given the same amount of time to complete the activity. Students then compared their overall findings with the previous findings. They discussed the implications of their findings.

 

Results

Students divided the litter into nine categories: plastic, paper, aluminum, glass, metal, Styrofoam, rubber, cigarette butts, and other (rope, socks, rags, pencils, etc.). The results of the litter collection before and after the anti-litter campaign are presented in Table 1. A comparison of the data revealed, as predicted, an overall decrease in the amount of litter collected after three weeks of the anti-litter campaign being implemented (a difference of 495 items).

Table 1. Results of the litter collection before and after the anti-litter campaign

Number of Items Collected Before Anti-Litter Campaign

Number of Items Collected After Anti-Litter Campaign

Plastic

277

113

Paper

200

67

Aluminum

37

8

Glass

3

5

Metal

27

5

Styrofoam

5

0

Rubber

17

2

Cigarette Butts

106

24

Other

60

13

TOTAL

732

237

 

Summary and Conclusion

As predicted, the total amount of litter collected before the implementation of the anti-litter campaign was greater than the amount of litter collected three weeks after. The number of items collected in each category, with the exception of glass, decreased after the anti-litter campaign was employed. Perhaps, by allowing more time for the anti-litter campaign to take effect, there might have been a decrease in the amount of glass items collected.  By promoting the concept of going green in our schools and teaching the importance of the 3Rs, we can develop positive behaviors and attitudes in our students that will contribute to the preservation of the earth.

This project focused on waste reduction and sought to address the environmental issue of littering. It helped students to develop a better understanding of the environmental hazards of littering and to promote behavior in support of a sustainable environment. By examining the amount of litter on campus and creating an anti-litter campaign, high school students in this project developed an appreciation for the environment and natural resources. The students also exercised proper litter disposal while encouraging other students to do the same. By taking the time to educate students about environmental issues like littering, and incorporating environmental awareness into lessons, teachers can begin to make a difference and eventually change the world.

 

References

Curriculum & lesson plans. (n.d.). Waste wise. Retrieved April 24, 2010, from

http://www.noosariver.com.au/wastewise/resources_and_ links.html#curriculum

Litter. (2003). Stone Circle, 4(9). Retrieved May 6, 2010, from http://www.praguepost.cz/PPEF/ 09SC030219.pdf

Peters, S. (2010). Going green is popular at Long Beach schools. Long Beach Press – Telegram. Retrieved May 6,

2010, from http://www.presstelegram.com/news /ci_14671383

Students save the environment…one scrap at a time. (2010). Curriculum Review, 49(5), 6-7.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exhibit B

A Report by a Police Officer

 

Going Paperless in the Guam Police Department

 

Purpose

This project focused on adopting and implementing policies and procedures for going green within the Guam Police Department. I have seen the vast amounts of paper the Department uses daily. It made me wonder how much actual paper the department consumed, and how the use of a “shared drive” could save the Department’s money.

 

Literature Review

What is a shared drive? According to Lowe’s (2005), a shared drive is known as a network drive in which people within a network can create and store items electronically. The items range from Word Spreadsheets, reports, records, and almost all documents that are created on a computer. People may wonder what the difference between a network drive and a computer drive is. Lowe explains that all computers come with a drive that allows for storage.

According to a resource article from id2 communications (2005), the average American uses over 748 pounds of paper per year. Employees at American financial businesses, for instance, generate about two pounds of paper per day and per person. This same article further exposed that despite the technology of today in the age of computers, the paperless office, once predicted as a result of information technology, has not transpired. Industry analysts estimated that 95% of business information is still stored on paper. The last sentence proved to be right for the Police Department. We have a shared drive, yet we continue to keep records of our reports on paper.

 

Method

As it was only my unit of five detectives that were contributing to this project, I made it a point to gather the monthly reports and tabulations from the other four units consisting of the other detectives whom were not a part of this project. All statistical data from the monthly reports submitted by other units was then used to compare how much paper was actually being consumed by the Detective Unit from the months of January to April, 2010.

On top of initiating the project with my unit, I reviewed our department’s budget for the current fiscal year.

I conducted interviews with the Department’s Administrative Services Officer (who was responsible for dispersing and managing the funds of the Department’s fiscal year budget), and with the Officer-In-Charge of the Supply Unit (who was responsible for the procurement and disbursement of supplies). The data that were gathered from these interviews made me have a better understanding of how much of the Department’s budget for the fiscal year was geared towards the purchasing of supplies and how many payments for supplies went strictly towards paper.

 

Results and Discussion

On March 4, 2010, the Department’s Administrative Services Officer explained that the Department received $25 Million dollars for Fiscal Year 2010. The first priority in the budget is the funding of personnel salaries, which accounted for $16 million dollars. The remaining $11 Million dollars from the budget was spread throughout the rest of the Department. Out of this $11 million dollars, approximately $10,000 was appropriated to the Supply Unit of the Department. The Supply Unit is responsible for the purchasing various supplies such as pens, folders, staplers, and paper. The Officer concluded that “paper” was one of the most costly supplies that the Supply Unit purchases. On March 5, 2010, I conducted an interview with the Officer-In-Charge of the Supply Unit, who verified:

1)       The Supply Unit was allotted $10,000 to purchase supplies for the Department, explaining that out of that $10,000, $7,600 was spent to purchase 200 cases of paper, with each case costing $38. These 200 cases of paper are broken down and dispersed throughout various sections of the Department.

2)       Each section and division averages about 5 to 10 cases of paper.

3)       The Records and Identification uses the highest amount of paper (80 cases of paper), followed by the Patrol Division (40 cases of paper), and the Administration and Detective Divisions which average 20 cases.

4)       Each case of paper contains 500 sheets. The Department consumes 100,000 sheets of paper per year.

The Detectives Section alone does use 10,000 sheets of paper, or 10%, of the Department’s yearly paper consumption average. This means that the Detective Section uses $7,600 per year to be supplied with paper.

Having these numbers actually in place, I wanted to see how the experiment of my unit going paperless would have an effect on the use of paper. I then proceeded to study all the monthly reports submitted by each unit of the Detective Section that had statistics on the amount of paper that was used to print police reports and administrative documents.

  • January 31-February 28, 2010: The Detective Section consumed 1,484 sheets of paper for police reports and administrative documents; 396 sheets of paper were used by my unit alone.
  • March 1-April 3, 2010: The Detective Section consumed 3,365 sheets of paper for police reports and administrative documents; 20 sheets of paper were used by my unit alone. By using the shared drive, my unit consumed 376 less sheets of paper for this month in comparison with the previous months.
  • April 4 to – April 28, 2010: The Detective Section consumed 1,201 sheets of paper. My unit used no paper.

The experiment that I conducted with my unit proved that the use of the shared drive to send and store documents had saved paper tremendously. On April 29, 2010, these monthly statistics were brought to light during a supervisors’ meeting, convincing our Bureau Chief to implement a policy for the Detective Section to go paperless using the shared drive. At this point, the entire Detective Section has gone almost completely paperless in their operations. We are not completely paperless, as on occasion paper is still used to correspond with outside agencies and businesses. But our numbers regarding paper consumption have drastically decreased within the past months due to the shared drive. Should the Department go completely paperless, $7,600 could be saved—annually.

 

Conclusion

I realized that most of the people, who opposed the idea of my project, were intimidated by their lack of training in the use of the shared drive system. Moreover, most of them were just stuck in their old ways of doing things. Given the success of this project, other divisions within the Department are experimenting with going paperless, and will soon fully convert to using the shared drive system. The most important thing that I learned from this project was that although changes do not happen overnight, a few people can certainly make a difference.

 

References

id2 Communications. (2005).Facts about paper and paper waste. Retrieved March 3, 2010, from http://www.id2.ca/downloads/eco-design-paper-facts.pdf

Lowe, D. (2005). Networking for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing.

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