The NOLS Wilderness Medicine Institute hosts 750 courses around the world each year. WMI offers courses for students interested in gaining practical knowledge in backcountry emergency and medical care. Teaching sessions are divided into classroom time and outdoor emergency scenarios. Outside of class, students study hard using their course books. Instructors get packets too, containing logistical information, exams, and quizzes. While WMI instructors are teaching cutting edge curriculum and facilitating lifelike medical scenarios in stunning backcountry settings, folks in the WMI office are fine-tuning another critical component of their courses: the paperwork. Staff took the time to rethink their paper usage in forms and exams with the goal of reducing waste.
To accomplish this, WMI asked a group of instructors to identify what they were and were not using in their packets. Over the years, extra pages have been added into the packet in response to demand. Instructors pointed out the sections of the course packets commonly overlooked or not used, and eliminated those sections. For example, thirty-five pages from the two-day WFA course were removed. That is a 17,500-page reduction for this course type in one year! This will cut down on shipping weight and reduce the amount of paper recycled or thrown away.
More often than not, Wilderness EMT students arrive at their course with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, and computers and Internet access are available where courses are taught. Transition from paper to electronic tests and quizzes within the WEMT program has been especially beneficial. The paper usage been reduced by 12,500 pieces of paper per year. Instructors also have more flexibility to review exams and identify patterns in performance using item analysis features within the online platform. With this new ability, instructors can eliminate questions or choose to focus more time on certain subject material.
WMI has reassessed their paper usage for every course type. In all, this is expected to save nearly 60,000 pieces of paper annually, the equivalent of a twenty-foot tall stack of paper! This paper reduction movement is another exciting step in the school’s sustainability journey.