If I were to track the number of copies that are made in school each year, I think it would turn into a fantastic conversion problem for my students. How deep would we be able to fill a room with used copy paper? I'm sure we'd all have our eyes opened at the amount of material that goes through our classrooms each year.
Schools are also looking to go as paperless as they can in order to cut costs. While I don't agree with the rationale for cutting paper, it is an important factor to consider when we think about the amount of waste we put into the environment. But, the infrastructure required to go completely paperless is often out of reach. There are some ways you can cut down on paper in your class, even if you can't go completely paperless.
Use your space - This year, I was introduced to the neon Expo white board marker, and they have changed my life. These markers write on top of the lab tables and wipe off easily with a damp paper towel. Kids can now do scratch work on the table, and then call me over to check their progress. Plus, kids always love being able to write on things we usually tell them not to write on. I have also seen teachers use regular white board markers on desks that have polyurethane veneers. (Be sure to test it yourself before handing out 30 markers, though).
Neon dry erase, my photo.
$2 interactive whiteboard - Frank Noschese wrote this post a couple of years ago, and I went out and did the same for my class last year. I think for my classroom, it cost me $35. And, Lowe's or Home Depot will cut the boards for free. Double win.
Track large handouts - I provide note packets for each unit my students go through. This is a lot of paper, considering each packet is 4-5 pages (double sided, of course) and 120 students looking for a copy with each new unit. So, I print them once, and then post the packet on Google Drive. The problem I had, is that students would often lose the packets, and then they would tell me that they never got one in the first place. In the moment, I would usually go print another one, which led to a lot of wasted paper. Now, I keep track of who receives a copy by having them sign their name on my grade sheet. It saves me extra copies, plus, now they can't pull the wool over my eyes and they manage to keep track of their papers the first time around.
Checkout signatures, my photo
Class sets - This seems silly, but go back to making class sets of materials. I do this with quizzes, and I ask students to either do the question on the desk or on scrap paper. Which leads me to...
Keep scrap paper - I started keeping a scrap paper bin in order to reuse as much as I could. Oftentimes, a student would make one mistake and then throw their paper away. Now, it gets trimmed and thrown into the scrap bin. Now, rather than using notebook paper to complete an assignment or exit slip, students grab some scrap and we can reuse perfectly good white space.
Scrap box, my photo.
Post it on the Internet - This one seems to counter the title, but ask yourself, "Do my students really need a hard copy of these questions?" Often, I say no. Now, with that being said, I definitely recognize the benefit of having something right in front of you. But, find ways to create prompts or questions that can be put online as a Google Doc and then answered in writing on scrap, in their notes, or even on the table. It's easy to throw up on the projector if you don't have computers available, and it's there for homework if you run out of class time.
These are just a few simple suggestions. Any others are welcome in the comments.