top of page

The WILD Life Diaries: The Paperless Debate

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Student life might not be plentiful, but it’s definitely paper full. How might we cut down on paper use and is it worth it? Here are some reasons why choosing paperless is important and how you can achieve it as a student!


1. You reduce cost

Regardless of environmental effects, cutting out paper has some great results. One of the biggest drivers of cutting down on paper is the reduction of associated costs. Buying less paper or printing less, saves you a ton of money. This is great for universities too as they could waste less funding on unnecessary printing. Check out your university to see how much paper they use and if you’re feeling brave have a chat with them about it!


2. Improves communication, especially organising meetings, as it’s quicker!

Communication is also improved by going paperless. People can communicate easily via email or online chats and contact the hard-to find members of staff. By creating a Facebook group or emailing, there’s a chance you might actually meet up with your fellow students to complete that group work that we all love so much… And let’s be honest, when have we ever received a letter from the uni that has lasted more than 10 minutes before making it to the bin or being shoved into the depths of our bags and never seen again? Paperless is quicker and makes more effective communication (Here’s a great example).


3. Easy to edit and collaborate on work, (think google docs) & IT Skills

When completing group work, it’s handy to have an application that allows all students to edit a document and do their bit (in theory). Going paperless allows you to be more creative and collaborative in your work as well as giving you the ability to communicate about the final project. With most submissions being online, you learn the essential IT skills that are expected in a future career path. A large amount of work opportunities require a basic understanding of IT, going paperless is a good way to ensure that these skills are learnt.  


4. You’re saving the environment!

Thinking environmentally, we are reducing waste produced by reducing the demand for excess paper. If the demand for paper decreases, we could see a reduction in deforestation that could save the lives of animals and improve the livelihoods of the local people. Going paperless at university is challenging and it may not be for you. But there are simple steps you can take to cut down and any paper that you do use can be recycled. Being mindful of the paper you are using and balancing which paper use is necessary and which is not is simple, it can make a world of difference.


Protect the trees!

Although students seem to favour the technology; enjoying the features that they have to hand, how organised they can be and how easy it is to edit their work, some still find it challenging…

So why can going paperless be difficult? Reduced Recall vs Reduced Waste

The biggest turn off of going paperless is the decrease in the amount of information that you retain when taking notes on a computer. Studies have shown that when information is backed up on a computer we are less likely to recall this than if it has been written down. When participants were informed that their files were not saved, they performed significantly better. It is theorised that this is because we are aware that information is stored and therefore deem it unnecessary commit to memory. This means that you have to weigh up the pros and cons of environmental friendliness and reduced recall.

Recall is important, especially during exam results so if paperless isn’t for you perhaps try taking notes on your computer and revising on paper. You can read more here.


Time Saving vs Time Wasting

As mentioned earlier, learning how to use tech is time consuming and with so many deadlines it could be argued that time spent learning how to use technology could be better spent elsewhere. Again, this is the argument of paperless versus paper reduction. Sometimes paper use is necessary so if you feel like paper use is necessary for your hands-on lectures, reduce your paper use elsewhere.

The Exam Framework

Another important reason for the use of paper in universities is that fact that exams are still handwritten. To avoid cramping up and to perform as well as possible practising writing is perhaps necessary. Going from paperless to 2 hours of writing is a difficult task. Again, it might be a good idea to type notes and use paper to revise. On the other hand, this sparks the debate, should exams be handwritten? In a world that is turning to technology perhaps this should be incorporated into the way we are assessed in line with real world progression.


So, what’s the deal?

Going paperless would be ideal. But progress doesn’t always mean elimination. If everyone took a small step to reduce their waste, deforestation could reduce substantially. So even if paperless isn’t for you there are some small acts you can take to reduce the paper you are using.

Some quick tips to become paperless…

1. Take notes on your laptop

This means that you can keep up with your lecturers who suffer from motor-mouth and use paper only when you need to revise in the future. Reviewing the notes that you have taken on your laptop in the meantime will help you during this period.

2. Talk to your department

Check out what your university is doing with paper use and see if there’s anything they’re missing out. If you don’t fancy having this conversation face-to-face you can always drop them an email and see what they’re up to.

3. Recycle anything that you do use

Even when paper is necessary it can easily be recycled. Avoid the urge to throw it out with everything else and ensure you are separating your general waste and recycling.

Paperless may not be for you, but even through just mindfully recycling and saying no to leaflets or flyers, you’re doing just a little bit more than you were before.

Read our previous Wild Life Diaries article here. About the Author: Charlie Bedwell is a Psychology graduate from the University of Reading.

6 views0 comments


bottom of page