Carnegie Mellon University

Our final installment of celebrating EPP Projects at 50 focuses on our own educational institution — Carnegie Mellon University. Throughout the years, EPP Project groups have devoted their project time to focus on issues affecting the very community that they engage with every day. From noise pollution to solid waste management to sustainability and more, past project groups have addressed the policy concerns affecting Tartans across campus.

The Fall 1995 project, Computer-Related Repetitive Strain Injuries: A Methodology and Carnegie Mellon University Case Study, took aim at a growing issue across campus, repetitive strain injuries due to computer or office-related tasks. Repetitive strain injuries (RSI) are injuries of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones and/or supporting blood vessels in either the upper or lower extremities which are associated with workplace risk factors and which is not the result of acute or instantaneous events.

To understand the problem on CMU's campus, the project group conducted a campus-wide survey to define the scope of the problem. The group then analyzed existing workstations to see how the physical set-up of a workspace could be exacerbating RSIs, and then finally conducted a net cost analysis of policy options that Carnegie Mellon might consider. 

From the data collected, the group found that over 22% of respondents reported RSI symptoms that they attributed to typing and office-work. The group found that although the workstations were adequate they could still be improved by low-cost improvements. Ultimately, the group proposed the recommendation of a combined policy of low-cost wrist rests, better chairs, modified work schedules (e.g., alternating typing with other tasks), and staff awareness programs as an inexpensive and effective way to limit computer-related RSI problems.

Since 1995, the switch to computer-based work has increased astronomically and this project helped CMU prepare for that by implementing these policy changes around campus. Takeaways from this project helped CMU better design their office spaces; increased comfortability for staff, students, and faculty; and decreased the possibility that CMU affiliates will report RSI symptoms in the future. 

Another EPP project took on a different policy issue to promote sustainability and to reduce the overall waste that CMU produces. The Spring 2011 project, Green Printing: Reducing Waste and Innovative Alternatives to Printing, set its sight on figuring out a way to make the Andrew printing system at CMU more effiecint and sustainable.

Carnegie Mellon University annually uses enough sheets of paper to stretch from Pittsburgh, PA to Cuba, approximately 1308 miles worth of paper. One year’s worth of printing provided by Andrew Printing, the university’s central printing service, is equivalent to the destruction of 65 trees. First implemented in 2005, Andrew Printing currently operates its printing system on a quota system that allocates students and professors 800 black and white pages or 57 color pages per semester. Prior to the system, CMU affiliates could print an unlimited number of pages. Users on the Andrew system print on the order of 2.5 million pages every semester, but according to the group's research, Andrew Printing comprises less than 20% of all printing that is done on campus. Other printing options often overshadow the impact of the Andrew Printing system.

The project group conducted a life cycle analysis Andrew’s environmental impact in regards to greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and wood consumption based on three components: paper, printers, and toner. Based on the group’s analysis, paper use had the greatest contribution to Andrew’s overall environmental impact. Therefore, paper choice was the most influential factor of Andrew Printing’s overall environmental impact. The project group recommended that Andrew’s incorporation of 100% recycled paper would reduce wood consumption and solid waste disposed of in landfills, take less energy to produce recycled paper, and generate much less pollution.  Additionally, the project group also proposed that individual departments take a stronger stance on curbing unnecessary printing to curb CMU's environmental impact. CMU's continual commitment to sustainable practices is an ongoing effort and is aided by projects such as this one. 

The impact of EPP Projects continues to help direct the conversation when it comes to the development of the university's policies and helps the administration create more effective policy measures. We look forward to the outcomes of future EPP projects and to see how they will help shape community policies.