How To Go Paperless: 4 Tips to Keep Your Wallet, and the Planet, Green

September 8, 2014
Paperless technologies
Claudia Sisomphou

The school year has just begun and already my notebooks are filling up with notes and my backpack is teeming with loose papers and class syllabi. Not only do these dreaded piles of paper take up space and money, most likely we will throw away 3/4 of the pile at the end of the semester. Avoiding this dilemma may feel impossible, but I am going to share with you 4 easy alternatives to using paper for school. Homework and lecture notes will no longer force you to waste paper and even better, these tips will help you save money!


1. Evernote: An app for your Smart-Phone or Laptop

Evernote is a cloud-based note-taking application. It's completely free to use and works on all mobile devices as well as your Mac or PC. Each note can store PDFs, photos, and other documents that you want to keep handy. These notes can be easily shared with others even if they don't have an Evernote account. You can even organize your notes into digital notebooks for better organization. Let's be real, class lectures can be long and might require a ton of notes. Instead of carrying around a different notebook filled with different notes from different classes, pull out your phone and take notes in Evernote. These notes can be entered quickly and shared with your classmates or teachers. By tagging your notes they'll be easily searchable when you need to reference them. Evernote is so convenient because most students carry their phone with them anyway. No need for paper, no need to spend money! Just be sure to ask your instructor for permission to use your phone, and showing them the app might make them feel more comfortable with the idea. For the sake of our tech-generation's reputation, use this app as a real, paperless, note-taking alternative! Do NOT use this app as a cover to text or go on Facebook during class.

2. Noteshelf: A Handwritten Note-taking App

For some people, me included, writing notes by hand is still easier than typing them on a mobile device. Noteshelf is the perfect app for students who need to physically write their notes in order to retain the information. It is $5.99 on the App Store and has some really nice features that make it an excellent paperless option. Noteshelf allows you to import and export directly to your Google Drive account and annotate PDFs on your phone, computer, or tablet. You can also import and annotate Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents. For all you math and science students, most of your classes use formulas and diagrams that other note-taking programs can't replicate because they are only text-based. Noteshelf is great for quickly drawing out formulas or working on equations. All of your notes can be linked to your Google account and by saving them to a shared folder your instructor and classmates could provide feedback on your work. With Noteshelf you can take notes, edit your documents, do homework, and get a teacher/peer response without using a single piece of paper!

3. Genius Scan: PDF Scanner App

Can you imagine never having to take a syllabus, handout or homework packet from class ever again? Genius Scan is a free app for your mobile device that allows you to quickly scan your documents on the go and export them as JPEG or multi-page PDF files. If you hate having loose papers take up unnecessary space this simple tool can help you keep the paper piles to an absolute minimum. This is a great alternative for students and instructors whose classes, clubs, or co-curricular activities generate massive amounts of paper. With Genius Scan you can simply scan the document, save the PDF directly into Evernote or Google, and be able to share them with classmates and instructors. Genius Scan is a great tool to stay organized and a smart way to effortlessly avoid paper clutter!

4. Google Drive: Utilize it!

This one seems like a no brainer, but there are still many people that aren't using the fabulous (and free!) programs that Google offers. Google allows students and instructors to create and share in a completely paperless format. Files can be created and folders organized so that sharing and access are seamless. Programs available through Google Drive include Google Docs, Google Spreadsheet, Google Calendar, Google Slides, Google Forms (like Survey Monkey, but better and free) and more! Instead of printing off multiple copies of certain assignment sheets, an instructor can just share the document through Gmail so that students can complete the work without wasting paper on a handout that will be tossed away after reading.

One of the best features of Google Drive is the ability to collaborate. Traditionally for class group projects, we write out our ideas on separate sheets and then regroup afterwards to try and tie everything together. With Google Docs, your group can work from their own devices to create and collaborate on the same document at the same time. In fact, several of us here at the Center for Community Engagement worked on the first draft of this blog post at the same time in Google Drive. Individual and group rough drafts that would take many pages in a notebook can now be completed on Google Docs without a single piece of paper. The finished product can then be shared to the teacher without having to print out a multiple-page document.

If you have a Gmail account, including your Seawolf account, then you already have access to all of these programs! If not, be sure to sign up and start using your free account.

These are just a few of the great digital tools available to students and instructors to help reduce their dependence on paper. Switching from the wasteful, paper-consuming ways of the past to the environmentally-friendly and innovative methods of the present is one to the easiest and most powerful choices you can make as an individual. We are still a ways away from eliminating paper from Sonoma State but if anyone can make strides in the right direction, it's our tech-savvy generation. Take advantage of the digital programs out there and save yourself, as well as the planet, some green!

This blog post was adapted from: 4 Tools to Help You Go Paperless This Year