Paper > Paper Use Reduction

Rethinking the way your athletics and recreation offices buy and use paper helps trim the bottom line and can generate positive publicity. Follow the tips below to reduce your sports department’s office paper use, and visit NRDC’s Paper Project for more detailed information and tools to help reduce office paper use.

To help build staff interest in paper use reduction and smarter paper procurement across your sports offices, you may find it valuable to start by calculating the environmental benefits of recycled paper using the Environmental Paper Network’s Paper Calculator tool.

Also, consider joining the EPA’s free WasteWise program, which provides members with several benefits, including a technical assistance team that will help your sports department conduct a waste audit and reduce waste.

For a useful discussion of waste reduction, see the EPA’s Resource Conservation section on reduction and reuse. For information on paper recycling, see the Recycling section of this guide.


» Communications

  • Subject to your department’s email policies, use email instead of paper or faxes whenever practical – for internal memos as well as communications with clients and customers.

  • Don’t print e-mails. Put the words “save a tree, don’t print me” at the bottom of all emails as part of official email signatures.

  • Print less: keep mailing lists current, and don’t overprint copies or outside print jobs.

  • Reuse what you can. Stock your fax machine with paper already printed on one side; reuse oversize envelopes and boxes; use one-sided “draft” paper in your printers.

» Printers and Copiers

  • As printers and copiers need to be replaced, purchase units that can print on both sides of a sheet of paper. Then set all computers and copiers to a default setting for double-sided printing.

  • Save and collect 8.5 x 11 inch paper that’s been printed on one side, restack it neatly, designate a paper drawer on each printer (or as many printers as practical), and use it to print drafts.

  • Adjust the house style on word processing programs to use a slightly smaller font and slightly wider margins; use the electronic “edit” and “comment” features to work on drafts instead of printing.

» Incoming Mail

  • Cut down on the number of periodical subscriptions you buy. Survey to see who subscribes to what, then work out a sharing system.

  • Reduce the amount of unwanted mail your department receives by unsubscribing or requesting to be removed from generic mailing lists.

» Office Kitchen

  • Stock the kitchen with reusable mugs, plates, bowls and utensils to discourage the use of paper and plastic disposables. Consider cloth napkins or use paper towels with high post-consumer recycled content.

  • Encourage employees who carry in lunches to use reusable bags and napkins. Consider providing sponsor-branded bags for employees to use.


Student involvement in sports greening efforts can reduce demands on staff time and departmental resources. Student involvement can also help attract support from facilities, athletics, recreation, campus administration, and other departments. The following idea is one example of a task for students to conduct in your athletics and recreation offices. This preliminary student project could help facilitate interest in reducing paper consumption and enhancing environmental paper purchases  across all sports offices and institution-wide. Consider encouraging interested students to do the following:

Paper Efficiency Plan:

Complete a basic paper audit for all sports offices focusing on types and volume of all paper products used at the athletics and recreation offices. Identify all printers with the default setting set to double-sided printing and any that aren’t (flag any that can’t print double-sided). Identify opportunities to switch operations to electronic systems and minimize printing needs (such as electronic student profiles, forms and filing systems). Identify opportunities for improvement to sports department sourcing (and campus-wide sourcing) of environmental paper products. Consider writing up a business plan to encourage alternative paper sourcing options and possible vendors.

Visit the relevant page in this guide for more ideas for Student-Led Project Ideas.


Pursuing paper use reduction at your sports facilities can help your institution earn points within the “Waste” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). It can directly contribute to earning 5 points for the credit “OP 22: Waste Minimization.” Work with sustainability and facilities staff on your campus to support any institutional efforts to attain or improve your institution’s STARS rating. Use the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual to learn more.


The manufacture of virgin paper contributes to global warming, hazardous air and water pollution, and the loss of forests. By reducing your paper use, you help to reduce these impacts. While purchasing paper made with recycled content is a valuable step, using less paper overall helps to reduce less air and water pollution, disrupt less habitat, and use less energy.


The University of Washington athletics department launched its sustainability program in July 2010 by devising a strategic plan that encompasses all 17 varsity sports teams and 9 athletic facilities. The plan includes paper-use efficiency. The athletics department’s paper reduction strategies include switching from printed media guides to digital guides, and transitioning phone bills, monthly budget reports, and HR bookkeeping to digital systems. Additionally, athletics copiers and printers are now set to print double-sided to minimize use of copier paper. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

 The Yale University athletics department is minimizing paper use by eliminating desk-side printers and copiers in athletics offices, holding paperless staff meetings, and transitioning to electronic operations. These efforts helped the athletics department achieve a Green Workplace Certification from the Yale Office of Sustainability. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

Santa Clara University’s campus recreation department implemented a new software program in 2008 that eliminated the need for three-page carbon-copy paper membership agreements and locker rental forms. This led to a department-wide paperless initiative. Now, all department news and other information is available only online, and a single laminated news sheet is posted in the gym instead of circulated on multiple flyers. Signature forms are now half or a third of a page, among other paper reduction initiatives. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

 Bowdoin College’s Green Athletes are helping the athletics department implement programs to transition to paperless sports operations, using Quick Response Codes, for instance, that can be scanned by smartphones. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.

 Washington State University’s Recreation Center sustainability efforts included committing to reducing office paper use by 15 percent in 2010, which was exceeded by a wide margin, cutting paper use by 45 percent in 2011. The recreation department also cut paper towel use by 23 percent between 2010 and 2012. To learn more, read the full feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.


Most paper products purchased for Major League Baseball All-Star events (including invitations, tickets, programs, etc.) include a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer recycled content, and tissue products in stadium restrooms are made from up to 100 percent post-consumer recycled content. Media guides are now available electronically. For the 2012 All-Star Game, the Kansas City Royals also reduced paper use by creating an electronic media guide and transitioning to a digital ticket system. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

In 2008, the US Tennis Association switched the paper it used for game day drawsheets to 100 percent post-consumer recycled content, and in so doing saved 2,123 gallons of wastewater and avoided generating 441 pounds of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases and 129 pounds of solid waste. Currently, all paper products used on the grounds, including tickets, maps, tournament guides, restaurant passes, parking flyers, and napkins, include at least 30 percent post-consumer content. Many printed materials (program, drawsheet, etc.) are printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. All paper towel dispensers have been replaced with motion-sensor dispensers. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.

 The National Hockey Leagueeliminated most paper collateral for the NHL Draft, Winter Classic, All-Star Game and Stanley Cup Final by making Media Guides and Year-End Review packets available online only. Tickets were printed on recycled stock. To learn more, read the full case study in the NRDC Game Changer report.


AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)

AASHE STARS 2.0 Technical Manual

NRDC Paper Project

Environmental Paper Network

Minnesota Guide to Source Reduction

A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry

WasteWise – How to Start or Expand a Recycling Program