The Environmental Protection Agency has a "print in bulk" policy that has led to wasting at least 8 million pages of paper and more than 300,000 pounds of carbon emissions.
The EPA’s inspector general released an audit Monday detailing how the federal agency tasked with defending the environment is "amassing large quantities" of printed-paper.
"The EPA’s main authoritative guidance for printing operations (Printing Management Manual) is over 20 years old and outdated," the inspector general said.
"EPA’s current mindset leads the agency to amass large quantities of printed material," they said. "EPA staff believe it is cheaper to print in bulk and then store the material. The potential for waste is high, as evidenced by the nearly 8 million items recycled at the National Service Center for Environmental Publications between June 2013 and March 2015."
The EPA said the 8 million items are publications, meaning that the wasted documents likely amount to more than 8 million pages. Eight million pages amounts to roughly 159,680 pounds of paper, according to HP’s Carbon Footprint Calculator for printing, a large carbon footprint. That footprint does not account for the documents that were more than one page.
The calculator estimated that the EPA used 306,093 pounds of CO2 emissions on the wasted documents, burning 4,760-kilowatt hours of energy.
The amount of carbon emissions could power 36 cars for an entire year. The average vehicle only produces 8,320 pounds of CO2 per year.
The EPA’s "print in bulk" culture is reminiscent to that of Hillary Clinton, who racked up a substantial carbon footprint by ordering staffers to print out flattering tweets and articles during her tenure as secretary of State. The emails that Clinton asked her staff to "pls print" amounted to 405 pounds of energy and CO2 emissions, enough to drive a gas-guzzling Hummer H2 more than 275 miles and power Al Gore’s Tennessee mansion for almost six hours.
The EPA’s policy is also costly, as the agency is "spending up to $1.2 million per year storing, handling, and tying up funds with inventory."
The agency also spends $359,000 in leasing costs for warehouses just to store its excess paper.
In response to the audit, the EPA said it encourages "sustainable business practices."
"In coordination with regional partners and program offices, the agency is developing streamlined agency-wide procedures to reduce costs, reduce the use of paper and encourage sustainable business practices," said Karl Brooks, an acting assistant administrator for the EPA. "Paper reduction is an integral part of the FY16 [High-Performing Organization] HPO Action Plan, which expands print management to paper reduction."
"The agency continues to make process in strengthening its print management and its reduction of the use of paper and is looking forward to realizing these efficiencies," he said.
The EPA would have to plant 110 trees to offset their carbon footprint and make up for the nearly 160,000 pounds of paper the EPA wasted, according to American Forests’ carbon footprint calculator.