Using Technology To Reduce Paper Waste

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States generated 68.6 million tons of paper and paperboard waste in 2014.

This fact immediately evoked memories of going through countless packs of 3-by-5-inch cards to make stacks of flashcards when I was a dietetic intern just six years ago. I threw away many 3-foot stacks of printed research articles, notes, books and essays when I moved out of my graduate school apartment.  

There are many tools available to students that can help cut back on paper waste.  Here are some examples: 

Learning management systems like Blackboard or Canvas allow students to submit papers and assignments online without printing them. These programs also allow instructors to share resources without printing copies for each student. 

Cloud-based sharing sites like Dropbox, Google Docs and Office 365-based SharePoint allow students and instructors to easily share documents online in lieu of paper copies and to e-collaborate with each other.  

Electronic textbooks and online study materials on computers, tablets and e-readers can help reduce costs and paper usage.  

Programs like Quizlet and Cram allow students to create and access flashcards online instead of using paper materials 

Many of these resources can continue to be used long after students receive a diploma. Continuing education programs use these types of technologies to disperse information. The Healthy Aging Dietetic Practice Group recently released flashcards on Quizlet to help dietitians study for the Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG) exam. The flashcards can be viewed on a mobile app for easy studying wherever and whenever you have your mobile device. 

Using these technologies in new, creative ways could help reduce paper waste in many areas of dietetic practice. Keep these programs in mind to use both at work and home — they could help reduce your paper waste and make your life easier and more efficient!  

Melanie Betz
Melanie Betz MS, RD, LDN, CSG works as a registered dietitian for US Foods. She also serves as secretary for the Healthy Aging Dietetic Practice Group.