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Sustainability @YUL: Using Paper Wisely

Sustainability resources, documentation, and more for YUL staff and departments.

Paper Survey Outcomes

In Spring 2018, the Sustainability Advisory Group (SuAG) distributed a survey to Library units to ask about paper use.

After evaluating the results, we determined that the top three areas for which library staff (as a whole) use paper are printing out meeting-related materials (such as agendas), emails, and scholarly articles. Out of those who responded to the survey, people use printer paper the most, followed by thermal paper and post-it notes.

To support sustainable paper use in the Library, we have created this page to describe digital and analog solutions. Everyone's paper workflow will be different, but the most important thing is to be aware of the options available for every type of use.

The Yale Sustainability Office has a page with recommendations on reducing paper. Feel free to consult that in conjunction with this guide.

Digital Alternatives

Scholarly articles (PDF)

  • Adobe Reader, Preview (Apple), Mendeley, and EndNote annotation tools allow readers to highlight and annotate scholarly articles.
  • In the Chrome browser, the extension allows for PDF annotation, which is saved to public or private folders in a account.
  • Evernote accounts can annotate PDFs.

Web research

HTML pages, such as blogs, HTML versions of scholarly articles, news articles, and other content have many options for saving and digitally annotating them.

  • The extension uses recently-developed web standards to provide an annotation layer that can be used with any web page. It will save notes, marks, and annotations to an account. The extension needs to be used with the Chrome browser for now. Annotations can be exported via the API, and they are working to provide a better tool.
  • Pocket allows one to clip articles, but does not currently possess an annotation feature.
  • Instapaper, owned by Pinterest, is a web clipping tool that allows one to save articles. It has highlighting and note-taking features, but doesn't have a means of exporting annotations on their own.
  • Evernote can scrape articles from the web, where the articles can be annotated.


  • Export/print to PDF features exist in most email programs, typically in the File menu. Save a PDF with a filename (and in a folder) where you expect the content to be.
  • Evernote and some other note-taking programs have features to import emails that are sent to a specific email address, typically found in the user settings of a person's account.
  • Use the Outlook app on your phone or a laptop in meetings.

Meeting notes and agendas

  • The new Office365 SharePoint has integration with Office365's note-taking program. It's possible to use this for meeting notes.
  • Box Notes or Google Drive Docs can be edited live in a meeting and projected so everyone can collaboratively see the agenda and take notes.

Avoiding digital distraction

Digital distraction has become a buzzword — in recent years, NPR, the Guardian, the New York Times, and other news organizations have published articles, podcast interviews, and book reviews related to digital distraction and its effects.

One reason people may use paper is that the Internet provides access to so much information and content. It's easy to be distracted by email notifications, calendar invites, and other information irrelevant to one's current meeting. Fortunately, there are a few tools to help you stay focused while using digital devices.

Phones & Tablets
  • has an iOS app that can limit your browsing to specific web sites, apps, and programs.
  • (Offtime) is an Android app that will block distracting apps and show you your phone usage.
  • Apple, Google, and other companies are rolling out digital tools to help people manage their device use.
  • Reduce the number of notifications you receive from apps, including your email program, so they don't interrupt you during meetings or while working.
  •, RescueTime, and other resources can help you block and manage your time on web sites. They operate cross-platform.
  • Disable most notifications in your email program. You can easily do this from either the Preferences or Options menu, which may be found in several places depending on your operating system. Choose to only receive the notifications you need. Calendar notifications are likely more important to keep.
  • Mac computers have a "Do Not Disturb" feature in the Notification Center. You can find this by looking to the far right of your upper menu bar, near the time display. It's a set of three lines with dots on them (a stylized list glyph). Today and Notifications are the two tabs you have access to. The Notifications tab has an option to toggle Do Not Disturb.

Using Paper Sustainabily

Some paper companies pursue certification to acknowledge their sustainable practices. When you purchase a notebook or paper, check the common symbols on its packaging or online description to guide your decisions. The National Wildlife Federation once had a primer on how to interpret the symbols on packaging, but still retains some information about paper on a page about sustainable purchasing of coffee, chocolate, paper, and wood.

You can also use innovative paper-like technologies, such as stone paper — made from stone waste in mining and construction industries. Be aware, however, that stone paper is very biodegradable (often under UV light), so it's less appropriate for documents that you may want archived.

There is also a guide from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) about sustainable paper use. It can be found at

Some other ways to mindfully use paper are:

  • Use paper to put your best foot forward — for final versions only to serve as a print backup.
    • Use digital annotation tools to comment on and mark up committee reports and drafts, as described in the information on the left.
    • Some software, such as calibre, can convert MS Word documents to .epub or .mobi files that you can annotate on your mobile device using ereader software.
      • Google Play Books saves all annotations to documents in Google Drive, which you can export for easy reference. Document annotations can be exported from Amazon Kindle by emailing them to yourself. Amazon's process may vary by the device you have, but it should be in the settings or share icon for specific documents. Kobo does not currently have an easy export feature, but some programming-based workarounds do exist.
      • Be mindful of the content and device policies of the epub reader you choose, depending on the type of report, and read the Terms and Conditions of your software.
  • If you need paper records for other purposes (such as invoices), print only what you need.
  • Take notes on scrap printer paper or on the pads/post-it notes you receive from conferences.

Some ways to reduce ink and pen waste:

  • Piston fountain pens do not need fountain pen ink cartridges, and the glass bottles that ink comes in are recyclable. One pen can last many years of service.
  • Choose eco-friendly ballpoint pens and replace the spent ink sticks instead of throwing the pen away.
  • Change the default font in MS Word from Calibri to a more eco-friendly font. The amount of ink or toner used in a printer depends on a font's features. Ryman Eco, Times New Roman, Ecofont, Courier, and Century Gothic are all good choices. Times New Roman and Courier have wider character ranges available if you need fonts that can handle diacritics.
  • Recycle your used pens in the pen pail in the Bass Library, located near the printers. Set aside 10-15 minutes before your next meeting in the Bass Library classrooms to go through your pens and bring them along.