Course Readers (Ryan Fleming and Rachel Pacifico)

1. Sustainable Reader System by Ryan Fleming and Rachel Pacifico

1.1. What

Our action involved implementing a reusable course reader program by creating a binder system. This will allow instructors to keep the same readers each semester by simply removing outdated or unused material and replacing it with updated and current information. Before each semester, the instructors will have an opportunity to examine the current binder and decide whether or not to update the material for any specific class sessions. The binders will be stored at IES between semesters.

We have researched this idea on several different levels to establish a framework to actually conceptualize our concept. We first discussed the idea with several instructors to determine whether or not they were interested in the binder system. Once we established interest, we researched binder distributors and places where these binders could be purchased. Next, we performed a cost-benefit analysis to see how much the binders would cost IES upfront versus the cost of the existing course readers. Finally, we presented our idea to the director of IES, and we were given a grant based on the estimated costs of this project.

Ultimately, due to the scope and the magnitude of our idea, we were not able to actually implement the project. This new binder system is a huge undertaking and requires several discussions and decisions made among the top directors at IES. Our project serves as a gudieline or a set of instructions for those who wish to continue the project in the future.

1.1.1. Similar actions form previous semesters

A previous group explored the idea of eliminating paper course readers by completely moving the curriculum to online medium. However, many students criticized the idea because it eliminates the ability to highlight or make notes (Murphy et al, 2012). Our idea still maintains the reader itself but takes major steps to make the system significantly more sustainable.

A second group took two approaches. Their first idea was to simply encourage students to recycle their readers at the end of the semester instead of throwing them in the garbage. Their second idea involved moving the course readers online as well (similar to the first group´s idea), but they would provide an easy option for students to print their own readers if they choose to do so (Vilmar et al, 2012). This idea is the most student-friendly of all previous actions, as it provides the most amount of opportunities for students as far as course reader mediums.

Frist action: http://sustainability.seeds4c.org/Online+Course+Readers&structure=2010b+Fall+Actions
Second action: http://sustainability.seeds4c.org/Recycling+Readers&structure=2010a+Spring+Actions

Upon reviewing these actions from previous semesters, we learned via the feedback and comments that many students are open to the idea of adopting a more sustainable reader system. Many students appreciated the fact that these groups addressed the issue of changing the reader system, as a lot of students noticed how much paper and plastic are wasted each year on disposable readers. We also learned that while many students thought that online readers had the potential to be a good idea, a lot of students value paper readers because they are easy to transport and they offer the option for students to highlight or take notes in them. From these previous actions, we learned that students would like to see a more sustainable reader system while still being able to use paper readers.

We combined the feedback and ideas gathered from both of these action plans and created our own plan that incorporated concepts from each. Students seem to value the opportunities provided by paper readers, so we wanted to maintain that concept. However, our idea makes the paper reader system significantly more sustainable than the current system by producing much less waste.

Works Cited

Murphy, Kendall, Laura Scuderi, Erin Berlin, and Betsy Fischer. "Online Course Readers." Iesbarcelona.org. 4 Apr. 2012. Web. <http://sustainability.seeds4c.org/Online+Course+Readers&structure=2010b+Fall+Actions>.

Vilmar, Christina, Sarah Gold, Sarah Plyler, and Amanda Vitullo. "Action Course Readers." Http://sustainability.seeds4c.org/. 04 Apr. 2012. Web. <http://sustainability.seeds4c.org/Recycling+Readers&structure=2010a+Spring+Actions>.

1.1.2. SWOT Analysis


  • Decreases amount of paper used and thrown out
  • Eliminiates publishing cost of yearly course readers
  • Decreases printing costs
  • Decreases overall copyright costs

  • Professors have more work changing the binders every semester
  • Upfront costs of the binders
  • Needs Space for storage of the binders between semesters
  • Exercises for the students have to be changed every year
  • Someone needs to manage the system each year

  • Save money overall after upfront costs
  • Vastly decrease amount of paper that is wasted yearly
  • Encourages instructors to include more up to date material since it can be changed easily

  • Lack of continuation between semesters
  • Students writing or highlighting the paper in the readers

1.1.3. Feedback loops

As more binders are used, less course readers are used. This is a negative causal loop. With less readers, less waste is produced, creating a positive causal loop. With less waste, more binders will be used, which is another negative causal loop. This then creates a balancing loop, as there are an even number of negative causal loops.

This will prove that our system is more efficient at reducing waste, and more instructors will begin using binders. However, we ultimately want to achieve a balancing loop between having more binders and producing less waste, completely eliminating the need for course readers entirely.

1.1.4. Advertising

The binders themselves will not be advertised; the existing course readers are not advertised, so the new ones will not be advertised either. However, we can encourage students to recycle any marked or highlighted pages at the end of each semester. Marked pages cannot be used from year to year, and encouraging students to recycle them helps to promote sustainability by not simply throwing them in the garbage. Furthermore, it helps to save time for instructors and faculty so that they do not have to remove the marked pages themselves. To advertise this, we will send an email to the entire student IES email list at the end of the semester. Using paper to make flyers to promote recycling paper is counter-productive, so all of our advertising will be done online via the email.

If we learn that students are not willingly participating in the program by recycling their papers or are confused as to what we are trying to accomplish, it might be beneficial to include an informative email or orientation segment at the beginning of the semester. Here, we would explain the previous (now current) system and explain why it was unsustainable. We would explain what we changed and how our current action is more sustainable (see the next section for more information). For maximum participation, it is important to relate this information to students on a more personal level, so we would need to explain how important sustainability is in our current society. This can be done through pop culture references, mentioning celebrity environmentalists, and specifically explaining how much of an impact each student is contributing to the cause.

1.2. Why this action makes things more sustainable?

This action makes IES Abroad more sustainable by creating a system that is reusable and much less wasteful than the existing system. It fosters a change in attitude away from disposable, short-lived products and towards reusable, long-term projects. This "disposable" mentality is commonplace in today´s society, but it wastes resources and materials. Implementing this system will help to reduce IES´s ecological footprint by lessening the need for reader production, which requires the use of fossil fuels and materials.

Our system aims to be more eco-effective rather than eco-efficient. We are completely altering the existing system to make it more sustainable instead of making subtle changes (simply promoting recycling, for example). By creating a system that is designed to be reused again and again, we are promoting both eco-effectiveness and a ¨cradle-to-cradle¨design. Everything about our plan is designed to promote the waste=food mentality of sustainability.

1.2.1. Potential Benefits

This system decreases publishing, copyright, and printing costs each year by allowing smaller sections of information to be printed. Once the initial cost of the binder has been recovered, the system will begin to save money by lessening the costs of the readers each semester. Furthermore, the binders will drastically reduce the amount of paper and plastic being consumed, which is significantly more sustainable long-term. By reusing and not recycling or throwing away thousands of pieces of paper and plastic each year, the binders are contributing to a much more sustainable system.

There is a simple equation to specifically calculate the number of kilograms saved. This assumes that currently all binders and course materials are discarded at the end of the semester. Simply subtract the kg of discarded material per semester (with the new system) from the total kg of reading material that is used that particular semester. Because we do not have a general idea of how much material can potentially be re-used since the survey results were inconclusive, we cannot calculate a specific total at this time.

1.2.2. Potential Costs

The main cost of the system comes with the upfront monetary cost of the binders and the time needed by students, teachers, and IES staff members to maintain the system. Since upfront cost of the binders will eventually be obsolete due to the decrease of other costs, time is the toughest part to deal with. In order for the system to succeed, there need to be students, teachers, and IES members spending their own time changing pages in the binder as well as maintaining a storage area for the binders. The amount of time needed for this project varies depending on how many articles need to be removed, how many need to be added, how many binders are required for the class size, and how many people are working collaboratively.

A possible solution would be to designate the first five minutes of the first day of class to updating the binders. Each student will be given last semester's binder, and the instructor will direct the students to remove and add the correct material for his or her own binder. This would save the staff time and not consume too much classroom time.

1.3. How

Our design is meant to be a long-term sustainable project. This will promote the idea of a ¨cradle-to-cradle¨design by reducing waste and fostering a sustainable, reusable attitude towards course materials. By providing incentives and advertising our idea, we hope that students and instructors will participate in our project. While this system will require maintenence on the instructors´part, the Sustainabilty Club can provide volunteers to help the instructors maintain their binders and raise awareness of the project´s goals and missions. Other groups of students have attempted to address the idea of our current unsustainable reader system by suggesting recycling or moving the material to online medium. However, none have suggested the idea of a removable or replacable binder system, which combines a long-term sustainable attitude with convenience for both students and faculty.

1.3.1. "Cradle to Cradle" design

The system is designed to be maintained and used over the long term to end the constant throwing out of course readers. Ideally, the system will use biodegradable binders as well as paper which would equate to zero waste from the system.

We have discovered several companies that produce biodegradable binders, and the best model for this program is the "Earth's Choice Biodegradable Binder View" series made by Samsill. With the slogan "Made to Degrade", these binders are 100% recyclable and are made with recycled material. The front overlay panel (usually made with plastic that takes hundreds of years to degrade) is made of a special polypropylene material that naturally degrades within 1-5 years. Furthermore, a portion of the purchasing proceeds are donated to American Forests, an organization that re-introduces trees into the ecosystem. These binders are made in 1", 2", and 3" models so they can be adapted to any class requirements. For more information, here is the link to the binder company's website:


If the biodegradable items are not able to be obtained, old binders and paper will be the waste. The paper and most of the binder can be recycled, except for the plastic covering on the binders.

1.3.2. Questions for the unified survey


1. How frequently do you update or change the material in your reader (other than dates and semester-specific information in the syllabus)?
-Once each yemester
-Once each year
-Every other year
-More than every two years

2. Does your reader contain activities that require students to write in the books?
-Yes or No

3. We are considering implementing a reusable reader system that allows the same reader to be used each year. This could be done with a binder system so that some content can be changed each semester if needed. If you frequently update your reader, how much time would you be willing to devote to updating or changing the content by removing old material and placing new material in the reader at the beginning of the semester?
-No time
-Less than 15 minutes
-Less than 30 minutes
-Less than 1 hour
-Less than 2 hours
-2 or more hours

1.3.3. Analysis of the results in the survey

Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to collect and analyze the results of the survey.

1.3.4. Incentives

It is important to provide incentives so that more people will participate in the program. For students, there is a possibility of paying for the binders as a deposit system. The students will pay a deposit upfront at the beginning of the semester, and they can receive money back at the end of the semester for binders that are returned in good condition. This project can also save time for teachers. If teachers want to change the material found in one or two sections of the reader, they do not have to request to have an entirely new reader printed. Instead, they can simply print the sections that they need and replace it themselves. This will undoubtedly save time.

1.3.5. Relationship with the "Sustainability Club" (SC)

The Sustainability Club can be very benficial for this project. Instructors can recruit volunteers from the club to help them sort and replace material. Although much of the activity for this project takes place behind the scenes and between semesters, students can be used to help promote our sustainability cause and educate others as to why we have implemented this system.

1.3.6. How will this action be sustained when you are not here?

Ideally, the director of IES will mandate the binder system for course readres for future semesters. For the system to grow and replace the current system, it needs to be sustained by individual teachers. A member of the IES staff will serve to regulate the distibution and storage of the binders between semesters.

1.3.7. Who will do what

This project is largely based on individual participation. Just as the instructors are expected to maintain the information in their readers in the existing system, they will have the opportunity to keep track of the information in the binder system as well. Instructors will determie which material to keep and which material to update each semester, and they will print (or request copies of) new material if necessary. They themselves will replace the material with the help of student volunteers from the Sustainability Club, if possible. A member of the IES staff will be required to store and distribute the necessary number of binders each semester.

1.3.8. Comparison to similar actions form previous semesters

Our action is different from other similar actions because we maintained the paper system while making it much more sustainable. No other previous action suggested a binder system that allows instructors to update or change the material in only a few sessions while maintaining the main binder or reader itself. Not only are we simply recycling our readers (as one action suggested), we are reusing and recycling, which is more sustainable than recycling itself. Furthermore, we are still allowing the students the chance to have information on paper, unlike the action that recommended online readers. Our action also has potential to build cross-tier relationships between students and staff. If the staff and instructors can decentralize the work and enlist the time and effort of students in the Sustainabiliy Club, there is an opportunity to improve community ties throughout the IES center.

Este obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-CompartirIgual 3.0 Unported

We copyrighted the material using the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. This type of license will allow future students to use our action page as well as make changes and improve it.

1.4. Time-Sheet / Chronogram

April: We present binder system plan to IES adn teachers
May to September: Individual teachers and IES as a whole decides if they want to implement the binder system based off of our action plan
August: Purchase binders and implement plan

Berlin, Fischer, Murphy, and Laura Scuderi. Online Course Readers. Barcelona: n.p., 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2012. <http://sustainability.seeds4c.org/Online+Course+Readers&structure=2010b+Fall+Actions>

Gold, Plyler, Vilmar, and Amanda Vitullo. Recycling Readers. Barcelona: n.p. 2010. Web. 10 Mar. 2012

1.6. Students involved in this action

Rachel Pacifico and Ryan Fleming both worked equally on this proejct.

Page last modified on Monday 03 of November, 2014 19:15:36